Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Language Laundering

One of the things that can be a really stumbling point when learning a new language is turns of phrase: little collections of words that are used together to mean something other than what the words actually mean. When you start to listen closely to the way you talk you suddenly realise how many of these we use in English. Many, maybe most, do not translate. Bosnian has some too. Picking up on yesterday’s autumn themed post, I saw a cover of a local lifestyle magazine that declared ‘Jesen je zakon’ – literally ‘Autumn is the law’, but meaning something more like ‘Autumn rules’.

Then there are phrases that are the same by ever-so slightly different; like ‘money laundering’. Now we know this, not because we’re involved in any financial irregularities but because as part of the running of a foreign humanitarian organisation we’re aware of the financial restrictions in place to stop such undesirable activity going on. However, our local team members will talk about ‘washing money’ rather than laundering it.

Yesterday Rowan not only washed some money but tumble-dried it too! It is to the credit of Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina that her ten mark note emerged for her jeans pocket cleaner but otherwise unharmed. Given what usually happens to receipts that get forgotten in my pockets I think this is quite an impressive act of endurance. If the note proceeds to self destruct suddenly it will no longer be her problem as she spent it today, probably on the raw materials she needs for the creation of the cute little creatures you can see at Out Of The Frame.

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