Thursday 21 June 2018


A tweet today from the BBC's World Affairs Editor John Simpson....

....has drawn an understandable response. People are talking about the language of genocide. 

It's the shocking word "purification" which gives that Salvini quote such a Nazistic flavour. 

A stray comment on his Twitter thread led me to check the quote though. Googling the original, it reads: 
Ci vuole una pulizia di massa anche in Italia. Via per via, quartiere per quartiere, con le maniere forti se serve perché ci sono interi pezzi d'Italia fuori controllo.
The key word there is "pulizia". It's the word John Simpson translates as "purification". 

Pop it into Google Translate, however, and 'pulizia' translates as meaning 'cleaning' or 'sweeping', so the phrase (in full, and given in context) would now translate as:
It needs a mass cleaning (or sweeping) in Italy too. Street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, with strong measures if needed, because there are entire parts of Italy out of control.
It's still a very strong statement, but it sounds a good deal less Nazi-like than "We need a mass purification", doesn't it?

Furthermore, if you put "We need a mass purification" into Google Translate it brings up, "Abbiamo bisogno di una purificazione di massa".

In other words, there's an Italian word which specifically means "purification", and that's "purificazione". And Matteo Salvini didn't use it.

I know Google Translate is hardly infallible but I've tried translating and re-translating these words and phrases back and forth and rechecking the source and I'm now certain that John Simpson was tweeting a mistranslation of Matteo Salvini here....

....and, very possibly, a deliberate mistranslation. Someone somewhere probably wanted to make Mr Salvini sound like a Nazi and, thus, render his statements abhorrent to all decent people. 

So where did John Simpson get his translation from? Was he tweeting 'fake news' to his followers? If so, was that out of laziness or malice? (I'd suspect laziness - and a willingness to believe the worst.)


  1. I read in a French magazine about how whole towns have been taken over by Nigerian criminal gangs (they've been kind of sub let them by the Italian Mafia). They are used for prostitution, illegal drug dealing smuggling etc on a grand scale. The Italian authorities had effectively given up trying to impose any rule of law. I suspect this is one of the issues being referenced. Why has the BBC's World Affairs Editor and his colleagues been hiding from us the truth about what is happening in these Italisn towns?

  2. It's not just Google Translation. It does mean cleaning. I use a Collins Dictionary. See here:

    Incidentally, I don't associate the word with Nazism or genocide. Other references, such as the Feast of the Purification, would come to mind.

    1. Blair was pretty keen on "people"...which sounds OK until you translate it as "volk". What I want to know is "How much is John Simpson paid per annum for being the ridiculously named World Affairs Editor and how many reports does he file on average per week?...because I think it must be close to zero. "

    2. They had to find some title of sufficient grandeur to match his ego and something to keep him in the style to which a BBC man of importance is accustomed. I wonder if he's on the same special pay rate and work rate as that other old boy who does the occasional arts programme - the one who got into trouble over the Camila Batmanetc charity. I forget his name.

  3. Our news organizations are doing the same with Trump. They use words that conjure an image of radicalism to influence public opinion. They should stick with the facts and let people decide what it means. They become decision makers instead of informers.


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