Translation troubles: little summer green beans

The Herald’s bilingual quandaries of the week featuring cultural sensitivity, weird bugs and purposeful mistranslation


Facundo wrote a story on Tuesday about exchange rates increasing after a period of relative stability, which is referred to as a veranito in Argentina. When he asked if there was an English term for a short-lived stretch of unseasonably warm or pleasant weather I remembered “Indian summer” — which immediately raised flags (also “exchange rate Indian summer” just sounds bizarre). 

On looking into it, we were taken aback at how terms for this around the world have remarkably racist or classist connotations. The origins of “Indian summer” itself aren’t particularly clear, although it has been linked to slurs directed at Native Americans and is among colloquial expressions involving Indigenous people that should be avoided. Just call it “second summer,” if you must. Or even “surprise summer,” that’s cute.

Now, Argentina is emphatically not great on the racism front, a fact sadly reflected in our everyday language, which could be its own translation troubles column — looking at you, quilombo. Although the bar is incredibly low, it was somewhat refreshing to see our veranito is at least straightforward and without shady connotations.

We went with “honeymoon,” although tempted to use the Herald classic formula of italicized original Spanish term plus a short definition. Enough is going on for readers in a piece with unpredictable exchange rates as it is.

You may also be interested in: Exchange market honeymoon ends with US dollar surge

Bicho raro

One of Fernando’s interviewees for his story on Argentina’s Encuentro Camisetero said that he felt like the bicho raro in his friend group until he found a community that shared his passion for collecting football jerseys. We weren’t going to say “weird” or (shudders) “rare” bug, were we?

Basically, bicho raro is a weirdo or an oddball (Fernando went with “odd one out”). It’s a bit stronger than “quirky”: the literal translation is “a weird-looking insect” and given the mind-boggling biological diversity of the insect world that is saying something. If you want to ramp it up, a mal bicho is a particularly nasty piece of work. For our invertebrate fans, I’m sorry to say there isn’t a buen bicho or bicho copado — overlooked, I’m sure, as many bichos are.

You may also be interested in: Encuentro Camisetero: the community behind the football collection event

Green beans

Constantly switching back and forth between two languages means there’s a lot of space for bilingual weirdness — see “falop” being our 2023 word of the year. A key element of the Herald’s lingo is purposeful mistranslation and one of our favorites, coined by Judi, is “green beans.”

Perhaps some with similarly-wired brains already got it, but green beans in Spanish is chauchas. In Argentina, we say chau for goodbye (from the Italian ciao) which gives rise to many forms: chaucito, chauchau, chauchis, and of course, chauchas.

Until next week…green beans!

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