Nobody’s Perfect

All Set to Overcharge!
All Set to Overcharge!

Secretary of State Clinton had an awkward moment with her Russian counterpart last week, when her humorous, symbolic gift of a “reset” button was lost in translation:

Clinton’s gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their meeting in Geneva on Friday evening was meant to underscore the Obama administration’s readiness to “to press the reset button” in ties with Moscow. But instead of the Russian word for “reset” (perezagruzka) it featured a slightly different word meaning “overload” or “overcharged” (peregruzka). Daily newspaper Kommersant put a prominent picture of the fake red button on its front page and declared: “Sergei Lavrov and Hillary Clinton pushed the wrong button.” A correspondent for NTV television called it a “symbolic mistake,” pointing out that US-Russian ties had become overcharged in recent years due to discord over such issues as missile defence and last summer’s war in Georgia. Russian media has been poking fun at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after she gave her Russian counterpart a “reset” button with an ironic misspelling.

Everyone makes mistakes, especially when we try to bridge the gap between two vastly different languages. Even here at the Acre of Independence.

Last summer, a single mom from Ecuador moved into the house next door. Ever the gracious neighbors, we did our best to make her and her young daughter feel at home.

We thought of buying a housewarming gift at the local Pier 1, but opted instead for an Office Max type button from what we thought was a reputable novelty store (here at the Acre of Independence, we anticipated the recession and husbanded our resources accordingly). The manager assured us (with a wink) that the button affirmed a very loud “WELCOME!” in Spanish when pushed.

When we presented the button to her (along with a bottle of sickly yellow Chardonnay that the neighbors on the other side of our house had given us when we moved in), our new neighbor, a devout Catholic who had already positioned a statue of the Virgin Mary in her perennial garden, recoiled in horror:


Needless to say, we  have not shopped at Wolftrap Novelty Items ever since. But our  neighbor has  forgiven our ignorance of Spanish language and culture, and her daughter has even taught our children a few choice Spanish words as well, which is great.

We learned a valuable lesson from the whole dreadful affair, though: talking buttons are among the lamest gifts you could ever give a person. We’re sticking to Chardonnay and Pier 1 Imports from now on.     .

Post Script. We were very tired and overwhelmed with work here when we made the little PUTA button error, which many people could empathize with these days.  .  .

Post Post Script: To get the joke, of course, you have to know what the word puta means in español.    .   .

UPDATE: Please realize that the above post was a joke, and the whole incident with the PUTA button DID NOT really happen. I really thought it was obvious, but I was wrong. Evidently my humor was a bit on the dry side for too many people, judging from the emails.  .  .


One thought on “Nobody’s Perfect

  1. “Everyone makes mistakes, especially when we try to bridge the gap between two vastly different languages. ”

    What happened to the promise of repairing our reputation in the world? Is this what they had in mind? Let’s hope the translators get their act together when the serious discussions are underway.

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