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Perils of translation

Michael Quinion affronta ogni settimana dubbi linguistici veramente amletici. Questa settimana un suo lettore chiede cosa mai sia una "cupboard de mutation".

Con il solito garbo Quinion riflette sulle possibili origini di questa espressione particolare e inedita e ne deduce che la causa è una traduzione.... andata a male. 


Dall'ultimo numero di World Wide Words E-Magazine.

Perils of translation

Aniruddh Sankaran is a member of an on line forum for frequent flyers. Earlier this week, another member asked about a sign he’d seen on the Web site of Mumbai Airport: cupboard de mutation. A Web search finds only one other example, at Kolkata airport: “Money and communications: There are banks and cupboard de mutation in the terminals. A announce charge is also untaken.” What is this odd phrase? I’m fairly sure, based on the context and the poor English of the Kolkata example, that somebody has made a hash of translating the standard international term bureau de change into English, turning the French change into English mutation. I surmise that bureau was assumed to be in the sense of a writing desk, though how it then turned into a cupboard is anybody’s guess. It reminds me of Lewis Carroll’s unanswered riddle, “why is a raven like a writing desk?” Why is a bureau like a cupboard?
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