I was looking at Pajamas Media, which had a story about Augusto Pinochet releasing a statement on this 91st birthday. Here's the important paragraph, as PJM ran it originally:
“Today, near the end of my days, I want to say that I harbor no rancor against anybody, that I love my fatherland above all and that I take political responsibility for everything that was done which had no other goal than making Chile greater and avoiding its disintegration.” (Yahoo AP)Emphasis theirs, by the way.
When I read it, it rang false. My Spanish isn't really strong, even though it's arguably one of my native languages, because I really pretty much stopped speaking it when I was about nine. But "fatherland" seemed weird, and I didn't get the bold face --- it seemed unlikely that a statement being read would have typographical emphasis. And then there's "fatherland." The usual word in Spanish would be something like "patria".
So, seeing as I know the CEO of PJM, I wrote Roger a note; he passed it on to the Santa Monica editor, who changed the story, striking the bold face and replacing it with normal face (and doing so with a strikeout and correction; would that the Times would be as honest.) But I still wondered about the translation; I went looking for the original.
On the way, it became clear that this was the AP translation. Here's what Reuters had:
"Today, close to the end of my days, I want to make clear that I hold no rancor toward anybody, that I love my country above all else," Pinochet said in the letter."Love my country." Maybe I'm oversensitive, but that seems to have a fairly different connotation than "fatherland." (Does anyone know of a context where "fatherland" is used in English other than as a translation of the German "Vaterland"? Am I wrong to think "fatherland" has a pretty strong connotation of fascism and Nationalsozialismus?)
So I went looking for the Spanish version (which took probably 10 minutes more than it should, because I'd somehow left Google set up to only show me results in English. But I finally figured it out.)
Here we go:
I would have translated that as "Today, near the end of my days, I want to demonstrate that I hold no rancor for anyone, and love my mother country more than anything. I assume the political responsibility for all that was done." But the key word here, the one that caught me, is "patria." Google translates it as "mother country." This makes some sense --- the root is the same as "patriot", Latin; "father." But in Spanish it's feminine, and Spanish dictionaries define it as "tierra natal", "land of birth." So while "fatherland" is certainly a legitimate translation, all in all the argument for "mother country", "homeland", or just "my country" seems better. Would one normally refer to a girl as one's father?
"Hoy, cerca del final de mis días, quiero manifestar que no guardo rencor a nadie y amo a mi patria por encima de todo y asumo la responsabilidad política de todo lo obrado", dijo Pinochet en la nota.
Now let's be real clear: I'm not accusing PJM or the PJM editor of anything. They simply ran the translation from AP. But it's interesting how the AP's translation got a connotation that I sure don't think was there in the original.
I guess it's just one more place to remind us that we have to keep an eye on anything we see in print.