Global Voices: Haiti

Japanese Media Struggles to Translate Trump's “Shithole”

Global Voices: Haiti - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 15:39

“Donald Trump, Turd.” Graphic by Liftarn. Public domain.

On Thursday, January 11, United States President Donald Trump generated instant controversy when he reportedly referred to Haiti, El Salvador and countries in Africa as “shithole countries.” While many newsrooms in the English-language world debated whether or not to reprint the US president's expletive, journalists working in other languages struggled to properly translate the word “shithole”. Japanese media was no exception.

While many English speakers will immediately grasp the meaning of the term used by the President, for non-English speakers the nuances of the word “shithole” can be hard to grasp. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word as “an extremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place.”

However, some major Japanese media outlets chose to use a direct translation of the word. For example, both the Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese daily newspaper, and Jiji, one of the country's main wire services, translated “shithole” as “benjo” (便所), a crude word for “lavatory” that could be translated as “shitter.”

But there seemed to be no consensus in the Japanese media about how to translate the President's vulgarity.

William Mallard, Reuters's Japan bureau chief documented the various translations for “shithole” that appeared in the Japanese media, as well as the Japanese-language editions of overseas media, and his tweet, in turn, sparked a Twitter discussion among other journalists and observers:

Japanese media .@realDonaldTrump‘s latest:
Huffington Post「汚い便所」

— William Mallard (@BillyMallard) January 12, 2018

Reuters「不潔な諸国」: “Dirty and unclean countries”
Huffington Post「汚い便所」: “Filthy lavatory”
Sankei「便所のように汚い国」: “Countries as filthy as a toilet”
Nikkei「肥だめのような国」: “Night-soil pits”
AFP「肥だめ国」: “Night-soil pits”
BBC「肥溜めみたいな国」と発言したという : “Night-soil pits”

Mallard noted that the most common translation he encountered was “night-soil pit”, or “koudame” (肥溜め), a hole long used by Japanese farmers to collect human excrement as fertilizer. Mallard, writing in Japanese, hypothesized this word was used because the word “shit hole”, directly translated into Japanese, would seem to mean a “hole for storing shit”, as farmers once did.

Other commenters questioned translating Trump's description of some Caribbean, Central American and African countries as “night-soil pits” (肥溜め), while other commentators continued to document variations on the word “shithole” in Japanese.

Shocked you left us out: WSJ「便所のような国」
Initially thought it was 「肥溜め」too, but it sounded too “technical”, a word farmers would use. Never thought I'd debate about how to translate this word as part of work…

— George Nishiyama (@g_nishiyama) January 12, 2018


— YuKI@くんろく親方 (@yumekutteikt) January 12, 2018


Mainichi: “Toilet-like countries”
Kyodo: “Crappy countries” “Extremely filthy countries”

A more precise definition was offered:


— とっしー (@manabujinsei) January 12, 2018

Since the words are already being stretched [in order to somehow translate the President's words], wasn't the intent to say “hopeless countries”?

Damian Flanagan, a prominent translator of Japanese books also suggested that Botchan, one of the classics of Japanese literature, provides a useful translation for the US President's vulgar language:

Japanese should eschew direct translation of “shithole” and turn to classics…At end of “Botchan” (1906) hero says “I left this shithole” (不浄な地を離れた) Love graceful phrase “不浄な地” (“impure place”) to make comeback. @martfack @annafifield @sharp_writing @Jonny_Strategy

— Damian Flanagan (@DamianFlanagan) January 12, 2018

Disgust with Trump's racist, vulgar language

However, others paid more attention to the intent of Trump's words, rather than how to translate them.

Prominent Japanese documentary filmmaker Soda Kazuhiro, in a tweet that was shared hundreds of times, said that the “shithole” in question is inside Trump's brain.


— 想田和弘 (@KazuhiroSoda) January 12, 2018

During discussions with legislators, Trump referred to Haiti and some African “shithole” countries, or night-soil pits, and that the U.S. should be encouraging immigration from countries like Norway, instead of these “shithole” countries. However, the only shithole here is inside Trump's head. Nothing but shitty thinking and shit from his mouth.

Reaction to Trump's language was strong around the world and in the United States.

Former Canadian governor general and current secretary general of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, Michaelle Jean, who was born in Haiti, called Trump remarks an “insult before humanity.”

Jamie Stelter, a popular media personality in New York City and spouse of prominent American media commentator Brian Stelter tweeted:

“I’m not going to use Donald Trump’s word today — not because I never use bad language, but because the people of Haiti and elsewhere deserve respect.” —@patkiernan on @NY1 #MorningsOn1

— Jamie Stelter (@JamieStelter) January 12, 2018

Author Jonathan M. Katz, who has written a book documenting the United Nations response to the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti, explained that Haiti's standard of living is lower than that of the U.S. as a direct result of historical American policies towards the Caribbean country:

In order to do a victory lap around the GDP difference between, say, Norway and Haiti, you have to know nothing about the history of the world.

That includes, especially, knowing nothing real about the history of the United States.

— Jonathan M. Katz (@KatzOnEarth) January 12, 2018

In a post shared thousands of times, one Twitter user summed up the discussion of the word “shithole” by pointing what has largely been ignored — the overt racism of Trump's remark:

Fascinating that media outlets find it easier to print “shithole” than “racist” or “racism”.

Categories: Global Voices: Haiti

This Week in the Caribbean: From ‘Shithole’ Comments to ‘Wining’ Laws

Global Voices: Haiti - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 13:52

US President Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0.

There's never a dull moment in the Caribbean blogosphere, so to help you keep up, we've done a handy little roundup of some of the issues being discussed in different regional territories, for the week ending January 13, 2018:

The ‘shithole countries’

United States president Donald Trump has a tendency to denigrate whatever and whomever, no holds barred. On January 11, at a meeting with lawmakers, Trump insulted Haiti, El Salvador, and several African nations by describing them as “shithole countries” that he did not want residing in the United States.

“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump asked at the briefing, in response to a proposal to restore protections for immigrants from those countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, which Trump opposes. He suggested that the US accept immigrants from countries like Norway instead.

Trump later posted a tweet denying the use of such offensive language:

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2018

DACA refers to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, an immigration policy implemented during the Obama administration, which allowed some individuals who illegally entered and stayed in the US as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.

Despite Trump's denial, it did not stop Caribbean netizens — at home and in the diaspora — from immediately weighing in on his comments.

Facebook user Stacey Marcial, who is Caribbean-born but lives in the United States, posted this colourful update:

Trinidadian Patricia Worrell explained why she stood firmly in solidarity with the “shithole countries”:

I don’t grant Mr. Trump, or any American leader, or any other leader of the countries that were once our colonizers, or of the countries that grew rich off our resources and our sweat and blood while we remained dependent, to do the same. I don’t grant people who continue to profit because we often don’t come to the negotiating table with the same resources that right. I don’t grant people who, historically, have helped develop and perpetuate our mindset of dependency, and who are now only too eager to profit from that dependency, that right. And I don’t grant people who are living in countries that, financial status apart, are as much swamps and shitholes as we (sometimes) can be, that right.

Bottom line – all the people who can appropriately claim the right to criticize my country, join me on this side of the line. Let’s cuss ourselves, when necessary, and then continue the struggle.

But – No! Not you, Trump, and not anybody who wasn’t either born here or put their bucket down to struggle and suffer with us on our turf! […]

On Twitter, Facts About Africa summed up the regional reaction (with documentation to back it up):

As President Trump brands Haiti and African countries "shithole countries", note that it was USA & France that destroyed and pillaged Haiti, the first Black Republic.

A dozen twitter threads cannot contain the atrocities and exploitation of Haiti by USA & France.


— Facts About Africa (@OnlyAfricaFacts) January 12, 2018

Ironically, Trump's comments coincided with the eighth anniversary of Haiti's devastating earthquake, in which more than 200,000 people were killed.

Jamaica: Concern over killing of elderly couple

Like some other regional territories, Jamaica continues to grapple with its growing murder rate. Earlier this week, an elderly Jamaican-Canadian couple was found murdered at their vacation home. Located on Jamaica's south-eastern coast, the house was built to withstand forced entry, so family members suggested that they may have been attacked by someone close to them.

Several Jamaican netizens expressed their concern. Sophia Sewell-Njie was dismayed over the “disgusting contempt for our Elders”, saying that a “double elderly murder […] utterly goes against the grain”.

Nikki Burke commented:

Why are people so heartless? What about Jamaica Land we love? We should be an island of love and beauty yet these people visit to enjoy themselves but they were murdered. No remorse at all. My condolences to their families and friends.

Nadine Scayle-McKenzie, meanwhile, had little faith that the local investigation would be fruitful, and said that she was “happy that the Canadian government [is] getting involved.”

The Jamaica Constabulary Force is investigating, but thus far there have been no arrests.

Trinidad & Tobago: Permission to ‘wine’ at Carnival time

On a lighter note, Trinidad and Tobago netizens are up in arms over a new law which prohibits Carnival enthusiasts participating in the country's world-famous annual street festival from “thiefing a wine”. (“Thiefing” is local parlance for “stealing”, and a “wine” refers to the hip-rotating dance that is customary during Carnival time.)

Two masqueraders “taking a wine” during Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. Photo by, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) warned party-goers that they could be arrested for unsolicited gyrating: its public information officer, Michael Jackman, made it clear that touching someone without their permission is considered assault.

While the women's rights advocacy group Womantra saw the move as a step in the right direction towards changing the country's sexist attitudes, saying, “This is an assault, even within the context of Carnival! Let's change the culture!”, others poked fun at the new law:

Everything is a joke to y’all lol

— Urban

Categories: Global Voices: Haiti

Post-Earthquake Tsunami Scare in the Caribbean Region Highlights a Shaky Range of Preparedness

Global Voices: Haiti - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 11:46

Screenshot of a graphic from a YouTube video, illustrating the areas affected by the M7.6 earthquake that struck parts of the Caribbean and Central America on January 9, 2018.

“Nature has warned us. We need to take heed,” said Jamaican radio talk show host Cliff Hughes on his morning programme less than twelve hours after a magnitude 7.6 undersea earthquake struck off the coast of Honduras on January 9.

For approximately one hour, authorities issued a tsunami warning for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, as well the coasts of Mexico and Central America, but was subsequently lifted.

The magnitude of the quake was stronger than the tremblor that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010, killing around 200,000 people (which actually produced a tsunami).

News alerts went out from various regional entities on social media, but the earthquake hit at shortly before 10:00 p.m. local time, when many had already gone to bed:

According to the Pacific #Tsunami Warning Center, a 3 foot Tsunami is capable along the coasts of #Honduras, #Belize, #CaymanIslands, Southern #Cuba, and #Jamaica. @newnewspage

— Breaking News (@newnewspage) January 10, 2018

A small tsunami was recorded in the Cayman Islands. One Voice of America reporter tweeted continuously on the situation:

Small #tsunami observed at George Town, Cayman Islands.

— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) January 10, 2018

Kingston, Jamaica's capital city, is situated along the island's southern coastline, between the Blue Mountains and the Caribbean Sea. Kingston mayor Delroy Williams tweeted diligently:

Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) is 5 hours ahead of Jamaican Time. Therefore impact is predicted for 11:18pm. Please be pro active in the event predictions are accurate.

— Delroy Williams (@MayorWilliamsJA) January 10, 2018

Cliff Hughes, noting that Jamaican media houses lack the capacity for a “24/7″ newsroom, highlighted the usefulness of Twitter in this situation:

That quake late last night was an excellent lesson for our first responders. And especially for us in media. We were simply not prepared to quickly alert the country of the danger. We have work to do becuz it's not if but when. Twitter was very useful.

— Cliff Hughes (@cliffnationwide) January 10, 2018

Tsunami warnings in action

Many Jamaican residents only heard about the earthquake when awoken by anxious messages from overseas:

Woke at 5 a.m to whatsapp message sent at 1:45 a.m our time from UK about the warning. Internet was down when I went to bed. Su
ppose it was real danger, how would I have been warned?

— CWS (@SomertonSteer) January 10, 2018

At least one Jamaican community of Old Harbour Bay does have a pilot tsunami warning in place with some residents evacuating:

Panic Old Habour Bay residents leaving community in droves because of possible Tsunami threat. @JamaicaConstab @odpem @AndrewHolnessJM

— Old Harbour News (@oldharbournews) January 10, 2018

In Puerto Rico, where authorities also briefly issued a tsunami warning, citizens were similarly caught off guard:

Wowowow I just woke up what is this #TsunamiPR THAT I HEAR ????

— BLACK HAIR YOONMIN (@usserles) January 10, 2018

Puerto Rico is still suffering from major infrastructural damage following Hurricane Maria last year, and its tsunami warning system was officially out of action:

AHORA en #PegaosEnLaMañana: Director de la Red Sísmica acepta “está en el piso” sistema de alerta de tsunamis y que arreglarlo puede tardar meses.@radioislatv

— Rafael Lenín López (@LeninPR) January 10, 2018

NOW on #PegaosEnLaMañana: Director of the Seismic Network accepts “out of commission” tsunami warning system and says that fixing it may take months. @Radioislatv

On the Caribbean coast of Belize, anxiety rose as the sea appeared to retreat. The Trinidad and Tobago Weather Centre tweeted:

12:30AM: The Ocean Continues to Recede in San Pedro. Belize as the tsunami threat continues for Belize and Honduras.

Stay away from coastal areas if you reside in Belize or Honduras’ Caribbean coasts!

Video: Breaking News Belize

— TTWeatherCenter (@TTWeatherCenter) January 10, 2018

More images from San Pedro, Belize as the ocean has receded. Stay away from the coast!

Photos: Breaking News Belize

— TTWeatherCenter (@TTWeatherCenter) January 10, 2018

One Belizean bravely traversed coastal areas, posting live videos online, noting that police were clearing affected areas.

Ironically, the earthquake took place on Earthquake Awareness Week in Jamaica and other islands. The disaster management agency in the low-lying Turks and Caicos Islands tweeted:

Today, the DDME & the TCI Fire Department conducted an Earthquake Simulation Drill for the Government Offices and Private Businesses within the Town Center Mall, Providenciales. Over 70 persons participated using “drop, cover & hold” method followed by the building evacuation.

— DDME.TCI (@DDMETCI) January 10, 2018

However, there were concerns raised about regional communications protocols when a tsunami warning is issued. In Haiti, at least, a system is in place:

Haitian internet company gives free access to govt. seismic unit. @Petchary

— Jan Voordouw (@JanVoordouw) January 10, 2018

But in Jamaica, government agencies lacked a strong online presence:

It is so pathetic that social media pages of critical govt.agencies like @NWA_JA and @odpem are not updated on a regular basis – there was NO tsunami warnings on ODPEM's [Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management] twitter or website also NO updates nor map on NWA [National Works Agency] webpages/twitter of alternate route for Barbican road works

— denise demercado (@denjamdown) January 10, 2018

Finding humour and solutions in a serious situation

Despite the scare, there was still time for the usual Caribbean humour. One Puerto Rican tweeted:

Luego del susto de anoche, amanecí revisando detenidamente mi plan de emergencia familiar en caso de #tsunamiPR. Lo comparto para que se preparen y protejan sus vidas y las de sus seres queridos.

— José E. Maldonado (@pollomaldonado) January 10, 2018

After the shock of last night, I woke up carefully checking my family emergency plan in case of a #tsunamiPR. I'm sharing it so that you can prepare and protect your own lives as well as those of your loved ones.

Marvia Lawes, a prominent Jamaican religious figure, tried hard to see the funny side but knew the situation was serious:

[…]Tsunami Warning and Jamaica in the same sentence…and it's suddenly not so funny anymore

Categories: Global Voices: Haiti
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