Sunday, February 10, 2008

trabajo de base

trabajo de base: grassroots organizing

I heard this rendered as "base work" - which has got to be one of the all time most dangerous false cognates.

in other news I found fabulous affordable housing in the funky neighborhood of la Macarena. yay!

I've (reasonably) been asked to explain why it bugs me so much that base gets mistranslated with its cognate. To me the first connotation that comes to mind with "base" is low, and in some contexts it could even be misunderstood as degrading. yikes! The next definition that would come to me for "base" would be military base - which might actually seem to make sense depending on the context, and again would be a total misunderstanding. Base is commonly mistranslated with its cognate, not just as part of this term. bad news! avoid it!

Of course "work" means something very different than organizing - but usually in movement contexts speakers are really referring specifically to organizing with this phrase, which is understood in Spanish, but needs to be specified in English.


Anonymous said...

Please explain why "base work" would be "one of the all time most dangerous false cognates."

Thank you.

Sara Koopman said...

because you don't want to imply that grassroots organizing is degrading work - as it's quite the opposite!