Saturday, 7 March 2009

Reset button needs resetting

Reset buttonAm I the only one who doesn't think this is funny?
When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greeted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday before sitting down to their working dinner, she presented him a small green box with a ribbon. Inside was a red button with the Russian word "peregruzka" printed on it.

"I would like to present you with a little gift that represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is: 'We want to reset our relationship and so we will do it together.'"

Clinton, laughing, added, "We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?" she asked Lavrov.

"You got it wrong," Lavrov said." Both diplomats laughed. "It should be "perezagruzka" (the Russian word for reset,) Lavrov said. "This says 'peregruzka,' which means 'overcharged.'"

Nobody in the American State Department is proficient in Russian? They try very hard to get a single word right and can't do it? For a photo-op that most of the world will see?

May I politely suggest that the State Department get its head out of its nether regions and realize that it is their job to understand how the rest of the world thinks and that they can't possibly do that if they don't speak the language?

The American government is like an out-of-touch executive, thinking that the occasional walkabout is a substitute for really knowing somebody.

And for what it's worth, this is not a Democrat/Republican thing. It's a part of the mindset that says, "I'm so important, everybody else has to know who I am while I forget their names." It's been a characteristic of American foreign policy for decades and is a big part of the reason why they get it so terribly wrong so often.

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Anonymous said...

Big blooper time! Hope the learn from falling flat on the their faces. One can only...hope.

Travis Erwin said...

Reminds of the the old Mark Twain quote which goes something like ... The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the same as the difference between lightening and a lightening bug.

Ed said...

I guess we can be grateful it wasn't the Russian word for "bailout".

I recall a similar situation during the Carter administration. His statement that 'we desire better relations with the Polish people' got translated as something like 'we lust after the Poles'!

Janet said...

What really gets me, I guess, is that if they can't even get a single word right, how on earth can they understand the different viewpoints? It was like Bush crashing into Iraq expecting to be welcomed with open arms, because doesn't everybody wish they could be just like America? Well, no they don't, but they weren't listening to any competent Arabists, and neither did they consult with a single historian who knew Iraqi culture.

And this self-satisfied ignorance seems to be firmly entrenched in the actual bureaucracies. If your Russian "experts" have to use a bilingual dictionary, you have little chance of getting it right. If the "expert" can't even use that dictionary competently, you don't have a snowball's chance in hell. That there is nobody sufficiently clued in to catch the cluelessness goes well beyond funny, it's scary. Russia is still a major player and even I in my ignorance know that they have a very different worldview than we do. How can anybody in the State Department hope to comprehend what's going on at a deeper level if they can't even get the highly superficial, really easy stuff right?

Clinton may be laughing in public, but I hope she's weilding a guillotine in private and that they get competent people in there. Bad relations between the US and Russia has fallout for the entire world. This isn't Grenada we're talking about.

Janna Qualman said...

ROFL! Whoops.

Now where's that reset button I had for Hillary? said...

The Associated Press would like Americans to believe that our representatives have no clue what they are doing. Judging from comments on the various message forums Americans are gullibly buying the simplistic explanation that our State department supposedly doesn’t know how to translate the word “reset” into Russian. Nonsense! The Russian word peregruzka appears at the top of the button, spelled in latin letters. If this was meant to be a literal translation, why would the letters be in Latin? The english translation for this word is “overload” and anyone that knows how to type a few letters into an online translation website can easily figrue that much out. An english word appears below the button and that word is “reset”. These words do very much make sense together: when something is overloaded (like a circuit), you reset it.

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Melanie Avila said...

Woops! Now I don't feel so bad about my Spanish typo on the dominoes I bought my husband our first Christmas together.


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