Lost in translation

It seems that my column about the anniversary of the BBC Micro has wound up in unexpected places. Today I received this charming email from a Greek who has been struggling to understand my references to (Sir) Clive Sinclair.

Good day.

Would you be so kind to explain this sentence?

“One was Sinclair Research, the eponymous vehicle of Clive Sinclair, a self-made man who worshipped his creator.”

I’m poor in english, but friends of mine who are good enough to work as teacher and translator, are met problems with understanding too.

Well I admit, the “vehicle” is just comprehensive metaphor for company, that allows its creator to move forward bot in professional and social planes. But “eponymous”? Did you meant company gave its name to products or made Clive famous?

Next problem is right after second comma: “a self-made man who worshipped his creator”. I think, the “self-made man” is mr. Sinclair. What about worshipping then? I even peeked in wikipedia, but there is nothing about religious motives of Sinclair nor his family traditions.

My reply:

Thanks for your email.

  1. “vehicle” is indeed a metaphor for his company, which was the corporate extension of SInclair’s personality.

  2. “a self-made man who worshipped his creator”. This an English joke, I’m afraid. Clive Sinclair is indeed a self-made man in the sense that he came from a relatively obscure background. But he also has a very high opinion of himself. A polite way of putting it would be to say that he does not suffer from a lack of self-esteem.

No religious connection is implied by the joke.

Best

John

It’s a reminder of how difficult translation is. And how impossible culturally-specific jokes are for non-native speakers.

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