Taiwan media insults Ma Jing-jeou in mistranslation

TAIWAN - Taiwan media mistranslated the word "bumbler" into ben dan, meaning fool in Mandarin, an Economist editor said Monday, adding that the description was not meant to insult President Ma Ying-jeou.

According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman Steve Hsia, The Economist's Asia editor Dominic Ziegler said in an email to Taiwan's representative office in the United Kingdom that he noticed his weekly's recent description of Ma as an "ineffectual bumbler" has caused quite a stir in Taiwan.

But Ziegler said in the email that he has noted some Taiwanese media have "irresponsibly mistranslated" the word "bumbler" into a phrase meaning stupid or fool in Chinese, Hsia said.

Ziegler's email was written in English but he used Chinese to write "ben dan" to ensure accuracy and avoid causing a controversy, Hsia said.

It was a "gross mistranslation" and the word was not meant as an insult, Hsia quoted Ziegler as saying. A bumbler is a person "who acts indecisively or in a slightly confused manner," according to Ziegler.

The Economist said in its Nov. 17 issue that popular satisfaction with Ma, who was re-elected Jan. 14, had plunged to a low of 13 per cent in a poll taken by local TV channel TVBS on Oct. 22 and 23.

"The country appears to agree on one thing: Mr. Ma is an ineffectual bumbler," the magazine said in an article.

According to MOFA, Ziegler's email came after Taiwan's representative to the UK, Shen Lyu-shun, contacted The Economist to express concern over the magazine's report, which was published last week.

Hsia reiterated that MOFA's effort to protest The Economist's comment about Ma was not ordered by the Presidential Office.

The ministry said it was part of its overseas representative office's routine job of collecting foreign news reports and making timely clarifications in response to "inaccurate ones."

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