Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Lost in translation"

I’m sure I don’t always use grammar correctly but I try. At school I very much enjoyed English, but I hated Afrikaans. I used to wonder what you would really use it for in real life. Today, however, as I write more, I find myself constantly thinking back to the grammar lessons in my English class and trying to make sure I apply the right rules. After all these years some of it has become increasingly vague. Sometimes, I guess, common sense simply has to do. Hopefully I’m getting my point across accurately :)

I used to have a friend who wrote me SMS’s without any grammar. I remember it being rather tricky and I had to be careful to make sure that I understood the message correctly. He didn’t consider it too much that if you move commas and full stops around, or added questions marks or exclamation marks in a sentence it could, in fact, change the meaning of what you’re trying to say. Sometimes it was funny, but a few times it could have caused some serious arguments had I not asked him to clarify.

Today I saw a car with this written on the back window:

We were content - if only for a few moments - with him driving at a snail's pace. We distracted ourselves with exchanging ideas as to what the person could be trying to convey.

Was he saying, “Don’t take it easy. Respect.”? This wouldn’t make sense because, if you don’t take it easy, you are probably not going to be respectful either, period.

Was he saying, “Don’t take it. Easy. Respect.”? It could make sense in saying not to do it – how? – Easy, just show respect instead. Maybe he is trying to discourage others from stealing his car.

Or was he saying, “Don’t. Take it easy. Respect.”? This one could also make sense in possibly warning against reckless driving maybe; to rather slow down and show respect to other road users.

For all we know “Don’t take it easy” might refer to it not being too easy to steal his car. In this way maybe “Respect” could be a kind of subtle warning.

I suppose it depends on who reads the sign. To me, however, it turned out to be none other than a waste of paint or shoe polish. "Lost in translation." In any event we were neither able to overtake him safely, nor did I have any desire to steal his car. Luckily we had to turn off and it wasn’t long before the conversation drifted off to another topic instead...


  1. Don't take it. Easy. Respect?

  2. Leaves one with quite a few question marks indeed, my friend :)