Saturday, July 10, 2010

False Friend: Inconvenient[e]

Sometimes a false friend turns up when there is no actual translation from a source text to a target text (at least I surmise that’s what happened here). I may be stretching in calling it a false friend, but in my judgement, the word choice was too influenced by Spanish, and gives the wrong impression. This article in the the Toronto Star is about Mexico’s promotion of less-known sites to tourists. The Mexican Secretary [I’d call her ‘Minister’] of Tourism visited Toronto “promoting 10 new ‘Routes of Mexico,’ a travel program that connects multiple cities under themes that tourists can pick according to their interest.”

In view of concerns about escalating drug violence in Mexico, the Minister is
“launching a hotline this summer that tourists can call if they experience ‘any inconvenience.’ The person on the phone will act as a sort of ombudsman to resolve problems.”
I’ll bet that the Minister of Tourism said inconveniente, or, if she was speaking in English, was thinking of that Spanish word.

It’s a false friend for “inconvenient.” I’d even put it the class of Tricky False Friends, because the meanings are close and may overlap. Nevertheless, they’re not the same.

Let’s compare:
inconvenient: not convenient especially in giving trouble or annoyance

inconveniente: 1. no conveniente* [not conveniente; so here we branch to explore the meaning of…]
*conveniente:
1. adj. Útil, oportuno, provechoso. [useful, proper]
2. adj. Conforme, concorde. [consistent]
3. adj. Decente, proporcionado. [decent, appropriate]
OK, back to inconveniente:
2. m. Impedimento u obstáculo que hay para hacer algo. [impediment or obstacle]
3. m. Daño y perjuicio que resulta de ejecutarlo. [damage or resulting harm]

The comment on the tourist hotline being juxtaposed with concerns about violence, I hypothesize the hotline is meant to deal with crimes and related problems, not “inconveniences” in the sense of the English word, which could cover much milder situations. In Spanish, “inconveniences” might be called incomodidades or molestias, but I doubt the tourist hotline is intended to help tourists who find the bed too hard, or the bathwater too cold. But I’m only speculating.

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