Scotland ‘burned’ by translation blunder

An official government Twitter account celebrated ‘Burns Night’ with the national bard’s surname ‘mistakenly’ translated

The Scottish government has drawn ridicule for an apparent translation gaffe after publishing greetings for Burns Night – an annual celebration of national poet Robert Burns – wherein officials mistakenly replaced his surname with the Gaelic word for burns caused by heat or chemicals.

The since-deleted tweet, which was shared with the nearly 5,000 followers of the government’s rural affairs department on Tuesday, featured an image of a traditional Scottish supper of haggis, neeps (turnips), and tatties (potatoes) with the words “Oidhche Losgadh Sona.” 

However, social media users quickly pointed out that “Losgadh” referred to physical burn injuries, and Burns’ surname should not have been translated. Several people speculated that the staffers handling the official government account had resorted to Google Translate when putting out the tweet.

So glad the Scottish Government has a salaried Gaelic officer, who trusts Google Translate to know the difference between heat burns (losgadh) and the surname Burns (Burns).

— Roger Hutchinson (@RogerMiles) January 25, 2022

While some names do have Gaelic translations, Burns does not, according to Gaelic language experts consulted by The Telegraph. Scottish Conservative lawmaker Donald Cameron told the paper that the official responsible was likely “eating their haggis with a bit of a red face tonight.”

“It is just as well Burns showed more attention to detail in his works, than this official did in this tweet,” he added.

However, a number of people suggested that the official government account was simply making a “joke” by “deliberately playing on the word losgadh,” which can also mean “firing” or “shooting.”

The greeting was accompanied by a message that asked whether recipients had “managed to catch [their] haggis,” noting that some young people thought that the traditional dish was prepared using a “real wild animal living in the Highlands.”

Given the tone of the message in English, it looks to me like someone is deliberately playing on the word “losgadh”. It means “firing” and I take that to be a reference to shooting the haggis. I don’t think it’s a Google Translate mistake.

— DK MacPhee (@DKMacPhee) January 25, 2022

Other Scottish commenters took the opportunity to criticize First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s government for spending millions in public funds to promote the Gaelic language, which is now widely used alongside English on everything from road signage to emergency vehicles. In its most recent budget, it reportedly committed £25.3 million ($34 million) to Gaelic learning and an additional £3 million ($4.05 million) to a “Gaelic Capital Fund.”

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