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French Will Of Course Never Rise to the Importance of Yiddish

in court opinions, but check out this 5-page district court opinion — pretty amusing. Its title: "Order Denying Maaf's Motion To Preclude the French Phrase 'Queljeu Doit-On Jouer Vis-A-Vis Des Autorites De Californie?' as Used in Mr. Simonet's Notes from Being Translated as 'What Game Must We Play with the California Authorities?'"

Thanks to my friend and former classmate Rob Dell Angelo for the pointer.

Abandon:
Lost in translation? Most likely...

As a French speaking individual myself, I find the sentence to be very poor in regards to the language standards for various reasons.

1. Unlike english titles, a french title doesn't capitalize first letters, with the exception of the of the first word and proper nouns, just like in a normal sentence.
2. Accents have been forgotten. It sometimes has to do with text formatting though.
3. Bad wording, plain and simple. 'des autorités de Califronie' should be rephrased to 'des autorités californiennes' or 'des autorités de la Californie'

As # 1 and 2 could be related to an incorrect retranscription or format purposes, I see no other excuse to #3 than a limited capacity to communicate in french.

In these circumstances, I have strong doubts the meaning the author wanted to give to the sentence was the one given by the translation ('What Game Must We Play with the California Authorities?'), since 'jeu' has many more meanings than 'game'.

Perhaps he initially meant 'Quel rôle doit-on jouer face aux autorités californiennes?'(Which role should we play vis-à-vis [or, if you prefer, in regard to] the California authorities?) or 'Quelle position doit-on adopter face...' (How should we stand regarding...)

It should be noted I do not mean to say Maaf's motion has anything to do with the improper and ineffective use of the french language, since I did not dig the case...
11.30.2005 3:34pm
Steve:
The reason all the words are capitalized is because it's the title of the motion, not because it appeared that way in the original. Indeed, the title of the motion is accented correctly, but the accents have not carried over to this blog post. Whether M. Pierre Simonet, the financial director of a French company, has a limited capacity to communicate in French is not apparent from the record.
11.30.2005 4:05pm
Jared K.:
Abandon:
I would say your statements about poor use of the language only emphasize the likelihood that "game" was the intended meaning. I myself have a very poor (high school level) grasp of the French language, and as such am limited to a knowledge of only the most common definitions of most words. I am only aware of the "game" definition of the word "jeu."
I'd say that the more nuanced meanings would probably only appear in cases where the speaker was extremely proficient in the language, i.e. one who would not make such an elemental mistake as the "de Californie" you point out.

As an aside, the entire decision is worth reading if only for the footnote at the very end, complete with its own citation from the Random House Encyclopedia.
11.30.2005 4:12pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
"French Will Of Course Never Rise to the Importance of Yiddish in court opinions"

or in anything else.
11.30.2005 5:03pm
microtherion:
Yes, "de Californie" is a bit inelegant, but IMHO not horrible. What I do find horrible here is the breathtaking ignorance and arrogance displayed by the judge in this opinion:

- He is ill-informed about the proper translation of "jeu" in this context. Translating it as "approach", as the plaintiffs suggest, is a perfectly reasonable translation. A translation which preserves the "game" part would be "What game plan should we adopt ...".
- "What game must we play" is technically possible, but in the context far less likely than what the plaintiffs suggest. Outside of movies, French villains don't tend to discuss their villainies that openly.
- He believes that a French - English dictionary is best suited to distinguish the nuances of a particular word. Anybody who has seriously studied a foreign language learns that bilingual dictionaries are, at best, crutches to use, and that monolingual dictionaries are far more reliable at conveying subtleties.
- He dismisses the translation judgement of a professional translator in favor of his own "common sense".

What's next? Translation through Google Translate?
11.30.2005 5:06pm
Steve:
What the last comment misses is that this is a motion in limine, in other words, a motion seeking to preclude evidence from being presented at trial. The judge is not ruling on the "correct" translation of the word. He is ruling on the question of whether the plaintiffs should even be permitted to argue that "game" is the correct translation. Even though the motion is denied, MAAF is free to argue to the jury that "approach" would be a better translation.
11.30.2005 5:10pm
Aaron:
Sacre bleu! A Francophile judical activist! Quick, call Tom DeLay!
11.30.2005 5:41pm
microtherion:
Steve, thanks for explaining what a motion in limine means. As a non-lawyer, I had to go by Lewis and Short's A Latin Dictionary, which translates limen as "lintel", so I thought this motion was about carving something across the top of a door :-)
11.30.2005 6:16pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Steve, thanks for explaining what a motion in limine means. As a non-lawyer, I had to go by Lewis and Short's A Latin Dictionary, which translates limen as "lintel", so I thought this motion was about carving something across the top of a door :-)
I believe that actually is where the name comes from. Motions in limine are almost always heard right before trial and are designed to resolve matters at the outset that otherwise might needlessly consume time during the trial. In English these might be called "threshold" matters; I don't know how legally significant the distinction between the top and bottom of a doorway really is.
11.30.2005 6:39pm
KevinM:
It says it's from the guy's notes, right? If so, I don't find it unusual, or indicative of Franco-illiteracy, that an article ("le") was dropped. I do the same when taking notes in English. E.g., "To do: 1. respond to hypertechnical comment on Volokh."
11.30.2005 6:47pm
Brandon Berg (mail) (www):

Anybody who has seriously studied a foreign language learns that bilingual dictionaries are, at best, crutches to use, and that monolingual dictionaries are far more reliable at conveying subtleties.


Right. On any number of occasions, I've found that a sentence that was nearly incomprehensible when using a Japanese-English dictionary suddenly became perfectly clear after looking up one or two key words in a native Japanese dictionary. Bilingual dictionaries are useful primarily for those who don't know the source language well enough to use a real dictionary, and are totally unsuitable for any serious translation.
11.30.2005 9:31pm
treefroggy (mail):
Just like a bunch of nudnik lawyers. Take a humerous take on the law by the boychik blog-meister and attempt to foot-note it.

Such a collection of megillah !!

Der Alter Kocker
11.30.2005 10:46pm