On Wednesday 24 February, Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, compared Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, to a damp rag. He also said the former Belgian prime minister was a “low-grade bank clerk” and that he came from a “non-country”.
Now I could talk about how insulting this is to Belgium – a great country well known for its delicious chocolate, tasty beer and rich culture. Or mention that the whole affair was arguably just one big publicity stunt by Farage to raise his public profile. But what I really want to talk about is how the “damp rag” remark apparently posed quite a problem for the interpreters present at the meeting!
While it’s true that verbal abuse is a common feature of British politics, it’s actually very rare in the EU chamber, where debate is muted partly due to a pro-European consensus but also because it is conducted in 23 languages through interpreters and headphones.
Apparently when Farage made his quip, some of the linguists were stumped as to what to say, with many of them hesitating before thinking of an appropriate solution. Meanwhile, all the non-English speakers had to sit and wait patiently for the barrage of insults to be translated! Wouldn’t it be fascinating to know what they came up with?!
Amy from London, UK