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Thread poster: Mervyn Henderson

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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Jan 20

I’ve been translating a website for a lady who has been and still occasionally is a journalist with EiTB, the Basque radio and television network. I remember her back in the day on Basque TV – at news time, you’d be watching her reporting from somewhere on their Spanish-language channel, and then you’d switch over to the Basque-language channel, and Vanessa would be standing there in the very same spot reporting on the very same news item, but in a separate news slot in Basque.
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I’ve been translating a website for a lady who has been and still occasionally is a journalist with EiTB, the Basque radio and television network. I remember her back in the day on Basque TV – at news time, you’d be watching her reporting from somewhere on their Spanish-language channel, and then you’d switch over to the Basque-language channel, and Vanessa would be standing there in the very same spot reporting on the very same news item, but in a separate news slot in Basque.

You’ll remember I told you about the origins of the “gilda” snack not long ago, and that’s one of the anecdotes from her new website, an offer of customised tours around the Basque Country with her, called A Walk on the Basque Side, especially once we’ve finally got shot of Covid-19. One of the most interesting and fun jobs I’ve ever done, this website. Maybe you aren’t interested for yourself, but if anyone you know is heading off to the Basque Country or near it, this is a must-do option. And I have her specific permission to post this heads-up, just in case site management here was wondering …

But, at any rate, as translators, you might be interested just to check out my translations for the site. Aha. Because I know what you’re thinking, you translators, you. Oh, yes. Don’t think I don’t, because I do. Yes, I can just see you now, eagerly poring over my work to see if you can catch Henderson out on a bit of faulty English prose. A small gaffe, a slight blunder, a tiny faux pas, a minute slip-up or an unfortunate infelicity or two. Although hopefully you won’t. Actually, I must confess Vanessa herself rumbled me on a couple of things when we were doing a final check! Minor things, I hasten to add … it was interesting and fun, as I said, but some bits were toughies, requiring a bit of thinking and considerable research too.

The “Inspirations” and “My walks” sections give you an idea of what’s on offer. The idea is that the punters pick out what they want to do and what they want to see, and she works out a cultural sightseeing tour, with time out to quaff wine and try the local delicacies. And it couldn’t be any other way, of course, because, as I’ve been telling you for months now, you know what those Basques are like gastronomy-wise.

For example:

A walk around Bilbao and its riverside area, transformed in the 80s from an industrial past to a services city, the titanium colossus of the Guggenheim Museum in the form of a ship (or is it a fish …?), with a 12-metre West Highland terrier “puppy” standing guard at the entrance. Some pup. And maybe a tour around the Seven Streets in the Old Town. Actually, there are more than seven now, but they started out as seven. Find out why cod is THE classic Bilbao fare - a local 19th century trader ordered “100 or 120” pieces of it, but the order was misunderstood because that “or” (“O” in Spanish) was mistaken for a zero, and he was landed with 1,000,120 pieces of the stuff. Fancy! So … what happened next? … Find out on her website, “A Walk on the Basque Side” …

https://walkonthebasqueside.com/en/

Or … an early start to the day, up the coast in Gipuzkoa province, to go to the market in Donostia/San Sebastián, buy food for later, then go around the city, inspect Chillida’s weirdly wonderful Wind Comb sculptures on the rocks where nature interacts with spectators amid the roar of the waves, check out the belle époque architecture of a city that was the playground of Spanish royalty and the aristocracy for years, and is still the backdrop for September’s San Sebastián Film Festival, up to Mount Igeldo to take a look at the amusement park which is like stepping back into the past, because none of the rides have been changed in decades, maybe look out on La Concha bay from the “Swiss Mountain” roller coaster, and then have a go at cooking the food you bought earlier, or put together some of those saucy Rita Hayworth “gildas”.

Or down to Vitoria-Gasteiz, European Green Capital 2012, and capital of the Basque Country too, since 1980. They made it the capital to Basque it up a little, because it’s a tad isolated out there in the hinterland on the plains of Álava province, a strategic location disputed by the Crown of Castilla and the Kings of Navarra back in the 12th century. See the old cathedral that inspired Ken Follett to write ‘World without End’. Even the city’s squatter district is famous, with all sorts of food sovereignty and energy self-sufficiency schemes going on there.

Or a bit further south to the Basque section of La Rioja, Rioja Alavesa, with its 6000 BC dolmen known as The Sorceress, after a woman who could be heard singing and bawling gibberish in the mornings (which kind of reminds me of what I used to hear in the pre-Corona days here in the centre of Bilbao, early on Saturday mornings after the clubs had closed down …). And a visit to tiny medieval villages. The villages may be tiny, but the winemaking tradition is huge, and you can taste the local plonk from one of over 200 underground wine cellars, along with lamb cutlets and “patatas a la riojana” (some of you may remember that my hapless Sergeant Garmendia’s mother-in-law had this potato-and-chorizo stew every single night of the week …). Weather permitting, the meal’s out in the vineyard itself.

Ou, si vous préférez, messieurs et dames, in the opposite direction, up north across the border from “Hegoalde” (south side of the Basque Country) to Saint Jean de Luz in “Iparralde”, the northern French side (so you don’t have to be Einstein to work out what “Ipar” means in Basque …). This is where Louis XIV the Sun King got married to a Spanish princess, and where the coast used to heave with fearsome Basque corsairs plundering the ships of the enemies of France, with royal blessing. The church where the two of them were wed, with a boat hanging from the ceiling. Now, why would anyone have a boat hanging from the ceiling in their church? Maybe it’s time to find out on one of those Walks …

But there’s a lot more. Art, landscape, seascape, local traditions and sports, just waiting to be discovered in a Walk on the Basque Side. You won’t find Lou Reed’s coloured girls going doo-doo-doo-doo-doo … although maybe, just maybe, who knows, if the Walkees ask her nicely, during the tour the lady concerned may give them a demonstration of her very own “irrintzi”, the Basques’ prolonged high-pitched ancestral scream heard during celebrations and fiestas. And there’ll be plenty of other things to see, hear, do and taste.

So what am I getting out of it? Because I know what you’re thinking - what’s this Henderson bloke’s game here? - don’t think I don’t, because I do. The answer is, I get nothing out of it. Well, no, not exactly nothing. I’ll tell you what I get out of it: I’ve lived in Euskadi for a long, long time now, and I like it, as you well know from what I’ve told you, and since Covid started in particular. I certainly do like it. As you know, I laugh a lot at the Basques and the strange things they do and say, and I also laugh a lot at myself because I know there’s a lot to laugh about there too, but I also laugh WITH the Basques, because I like living here with them, so really it’s no laughing matter at all.

And this is a splendid chance for me to give the place some specific publicity apart from everything I’ve already told you over the months – and indeed years – and I’m getting the satisfaction of doing that. That’s what I’m getting out of it.


[Edited at 2021-01-20 18:47 GMT]
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A girl can dream Jan 20

Raring to go, when this viral nightmare will finally be over. Great job, Mervyn!

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@PLF Jan 20

Thanks, PLF! We're definitely going to go on one when we can. Me, I'd like to do the Donostia/San Sebastián one (apparently the cool people call it "Sanse"), because Bilbao, well, why would I? That or the Rioja Alavesa vineyards.

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A fine advertorial Jan 20

While I’m not sure about the primal screaming (like a Maori take on yodelling), I would be tempted to take such a tour once I’m too old to do so on two wheels.

Would one get lynched for saying Hola (Or is it Ola? I can never remember) una cerveza por favor senorita?

Only, that’s as far as my knowledge of foreign languages goes. I’m British, after all.


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
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Don't say Hola ... Jan 20

... say Kaixo (Kai-show). Around here, anyway. A Walk on the Basque Side also has a couple of interesting sections on the Basque language. Over one hundred different words for "butterfly". Yes, and not various species, either - they all just mean butterfly.

But it's Hola with an aitch, yes, although señorita has that doofer on the N, but I suppose Welsh keyboards don't have ñ. But then again, over here we don't have all those "lllw" and "yny" and "nyg" keys.

I think w
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... say Kaixo (Kai-show). Around here, anyway. A Walk on the Basque Side also has a couple of interesting sections on the Basque language. Over one hundred different words for "butterfly". Yes, and not various species, either - they all just mean butterfly.

But it's Hola with an aitch, yes, although señorita has that doofer on the N, but I suppose Welsh keyboards don't have ñ. But then again, over here we don't have all those "lllw" and "yny" and "nyg" keys.

I think we can safely say it'll be another 30 years before you're off the two-wheelers, Chris. So try and check out Euskadi one day. And you can test-drive that beer phrase, too. Or try it in Basque. Beer is garagardoa in Basque, which sounds like it's glug-glug onomatopoeic, and it is, but it comes from garagarra, barley.
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Kaixo Mervyn, swt wyt ti? Jan 20

1 glugululug por favor!

But what are the chances it’ll be like ordering cwrw in Wales, so eight times out of ten they’ll just say Que? No hablo basquish!

So did you translate the website from Basque or Spanish?

Oh, and you asked for a Welsh lesson. (Whaddaya mean you didn’t?)

Letters like ng and rh and dd don’t need special keys for obvious reasons.

But an i can have two dots ï for emphasis, or indeed a “little hat”
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1 glugululug por favor!

But what are the chances it’ll be like ordering cwrw in Wales, so eight times out of ten they’ll just say Que? No hablo basquish!

So did you translate the website from Basque or Spanish?

Oh, and you asked for a Welsh lesson. (Whaddaya mean you didn’t?)

Letters like ng and rh and dd don’t need special keys for obvious reasons.

But an i can have two dots ï for emphasis, or indeed a “little hat” î to make it long, although it’s mostly on another vowel, y, that you’ll see a little hat.

As in the most important thing you need to learn in Welsh: tŷ bach. Little house. As at the bottom of the garden. Pronounced tea bach. (So nothing to do with organ maestro JS’s famous bondage fetish.)

Quiz: How many letters and how many vowels are there in this local mining village:
Ysbyty Ystwyth?
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"Pinpilinpauxa" Jan 20

It is indeed a beautiful word of this misterious language.
I am with PLF Persio. When this virus goes away for good, I will flap my butterfly wings and fly to there not for an "olá" but for a "kaixo".
"Muchas gracias", "Moltes gràcies", "Moitas grazas" and "Eskerrik asko" for this lovely website.


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@Chris Jan 20

I translated from Spanish, and at the same time another translator was doing it into French. I hadn't realised this until I sent in some queries, and she said the French translator had had a couple of queries too.

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@Chris - Zer moduz? Jan 20

I looked up swt wyt ti, you know. Don't think I didn't, because I did. Apparently it means "swt are you?"

I think there's some www interference here, though. So I'd hazard a huge sweeping guess that "swt" in Welsh means "how".

But I bet you can't guess what "Zer moduz?" means up there. You can't, can you? Just admit it. It's OK. If you don't know, it's OK to say you don't know.


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Oops Jan 20

Typo didn’t help did it... Sut wyt ti...

My only defence is typing Welsh on a phone with autocorrect is challenging.

Does zer moduz mean how are you by any chance?

All these x’s and z’s maybe explain some of the very un-Spanish-looking surnames in the Spanish footie teams of recent years... I always thought they were from Bartheloner.


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@Chris - those Xs and Zs in full Jan 21

Chris, thanks a lot, old chap, for a princely properly prime ProZ procrastination prospect you've opened up for me here. It's early in the morning because I like to do it my way, like Sinatra said, but if you saw the utterly unimaginable management speak trash for translation I can see stretching before me here until Friday at least, you'd procrastinate too. In fact, you wouldn't just procrastinate. You'd procrastinate in spades. You'd procrastinate and then some, as our American friends say.... See more
Chris, thanks a lot, old chap, for a princely properly prime ProZ procrastination prospect you've opened up for me here. It's early in the morning because I like to do it my way, like Sinatra said, but if you saw the utterly unimaginable management speak trash for translation I can see stretching before me here until Friday at least, you'd procrastinate too. In fact, you wouldn't just procrastinate. You'd procrastinate in spades. You'd procrastinate and then some, as our American friends say.

Yes, zer moduz? is how are you? A good guess there. And you're right about the names, too. And not only the more Ks, Xs and Zs they have, but usually the longer the name, the more chance it is that it's a Basque name. Like German, the Basques just add words to words to make other words. You may remember footballer Andoni Goikoetxea back in the 80s. Goiko, up, and etxea, house. The house up there, from when people were known by where they lived, in much the same way as the Anglo-Saxon surnames Baker, Butcher, Cook, Taylor etc. evolved from professions. Or place names such as the town of Arrigorriaga, just outside Bilbao, from harri, stone, and gorri, red, "red stone place".

Ssh, don't tell anyone, because they'll drag me off to the nut house, but I have a little theory, which I admit I'm not 100% sure about, concerning the well-known Basque town of Biarritz just over the border up there in the French State. God help me, I've even researched this myself, albeit with no conclusive results, but I reckon that name comes from "bi", two, and "(h)aritz", oak, so I like to imagine that back in the year dot Biarritz had two oaks standing proudly at its gates, something like that, and one day some Basque came along, looked up at these two oak trees, and said, "Ah, 'Bi Aritz'". But I could be wrong.

And they have those Ks because there's no C in Basque. No Y and no V either, so the province in which I sit tippety-tappetying out this unnecessarily long Basque lesson, Vizcaya in Spanish, is Bizkaia in Basque.

That's it. About twenty minutes well spent procrastinating. Time to get back to this poppycock and piffle - A Walk on the Sad Side, I call it.
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A piece of Basque trivia Jan 21

The Argentinian-born Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, née Zorreguieta Cerruti, is of Basque ancestry from her father side, therefore the next Dutch queen – her daughter Catharina-Amalia – will be a bit of a Basque.

[Edited at 2021-01-21 09:06 GMT]


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Man bat went to mow, went to mow a meadow... Jan 21

We taught our daughters to count to 10 in Basque using this song ( also the reverse order of number/noun for number one!).

The most useful sentence I remember of the language is "Bi beltz eta caña bat".

I also heard that there are no swearwords in Basque, but I never got the check that one out.


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@PLF @Matt Jan 21

I knew she was Argentinian, but nothing about her ancestors. Probably because you always hear about her as Queen Máxima. Thanks for the info, PLF!

Matt - that's a heavy drinking thing, as I remember, "Two red wines (or black, beltz, as they say here) and a beer". I remember a set of a dozen shot glasses someone gave my dad as a present over here, not that he was a heavy drinker, and certainly not shots, which all had one of the numbers from 1 to 12 written on them, along with some
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I knew she was Argentinian, but nothing about her ancestors. Probably because you always hear about her as Queen Máxima. Thanks for the info, PLF!

Matt - that's a heavy drinking thing, as I remember, "Two red wines (or black, beltz, as they say here) and a beer". I remember a set of a dozen shot glasses someone gave my dad as a present over here, not that he was a heavy drinker, and certainly not shots, which all had one of the numbers from 1 to 12 written on them, along with some kind of comment - 1 - a little drink, 2 - mm, that's nice, 3 - certainly merry, 4 - a bit unsteady, 5 - oh, the room's spinning etc.

Edit, because I forgot to mention the swearing. I was told that once by our Basque teacher years ago. She said very proudly that they used the Spanish for that kind of thing, joder, coño etc., or adapted, "putasemea", "semea" being "son", but even in the second example you could claim it was really a Spanish expression.

But, as far as I remember - I may well have got this wrong, and I'm willing to stand corrected - whereas in Spanish you can't actually call someone a c__t, coño, Basque does use its own totally different word for that part of a woman's body as a direct insult, i.e. You're a _____.



[Edited at 2021-01-21 11:38 GMT]

[Edited at 2021-01-21 11:59 GMT]

[Edited at 2021-01-21 14:21 GMT]
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Nothing beats a tour from a local Jan 21

One of my favourite travelling memories is from when I was walking part of the Santiago trail some 20 years ago. A couple of days before Christmas. Cold. Dark. Not the best time for crossing the Pyrenees, and my friend and I got progressively grumpier as we lost the path again and again, sprained ankles, got scratched by branches appearing from out of nowhere and had no idea when we would reach civilisation. Finally, we arrived at a small village where my friend went to lie down. Glad to be rid ... See more
One of my favourite travelling memories is from when I was walking part of the Santiago trail some 20 years ago. A couple of days before Christmas. Cold. Dark. Not the best time for crossing the Pyrenees, and my friend and I got progressively grumpier as we lost the path again and again, sprained ankles, got scratched by branches appearing from out of nowhere and had no idea when we would reach civilisation. Finally, we arrived at a small village where my friend went to lie down. Glad to be rid of her for a bit, I found the village pub and sat down to recover in a quiet corner. I ordered “what they are having”, “they” being a group of 4 old men, obviously regulars, very much at home in the pub and enjoying what looked like a strong local drink. They invited me over, taught me how to pronounce “patxaran” and when my friend joined me an hour or so later, she found me completely recovered and happily chatting away with the locals.

A walk on the Basque sites definitely sounds like one to remember and look up when the world is right again , thanks Mervyn!
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