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eurospeak July 1, 2009

Posted by Bradley in : language , trackback

Most of the media response to the EU Commission’s announcement of a removal of some restrictions on shapes and sizes of various types of produce which can be sold in the EU focuses on how long it took for the Commission to see sense and how consumers will benefit from access to cheaper (though uglier) produce. But the words used to describe what can now be sold are interesting.

The Commission’s press release had the title: The return of the bendy cucumber: ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables back on sale from 1st July. The French equivalent for “wonky” in the press release is “hors normes”.

EUobserver picks up the terminology of the Commission in its headline on the story: Wonky fruit to return to EU shops. The BBC reports the story briefly using wonky in single quotation marks, but other UK media and the Australian media leave them out.

We don’t know which version was the translation – the French term fits pretty well with the whole idea of non-conformity to standards whereas the English, slangier, term suggests not just non-conformity, but oddness or weirdness or even, according to urban dictionary, not working. So, was the use of the English slang expression tactical, designed to resonate with media which are often critical of the EU and gain publicity for eliminating red tape? Perhaps there was a bit more play for the story in English language media than in francophone media where there were some stories but perhaps not as many. But the reactions in English language media were perhaps more mixed than the Commission might have hoped. The Times Online says:

Brussels has for years complained of “Euro myths”over bans on climbing ladders, playing pub darts or drinking shandy. But even the barmiest of bureaucrats was forced to accept that its Byzantine rulebook for fruit and veg required revision.

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