The Freedom of the City — A spacing erratum

The Spring-Summer issue of spacing is out, and with it my latest column on transit matters.  Some gremlins in the editorial office got hold of the piece and mangled the opening a bit.  Here’s what should have been there.

The item begins with a quote from the Paris transit system’s website:

Se déplacer et circuler où l’on veut quand on veut, est un gage de liberté pour le citoyen.

This is rather badly translated in spacing to:

To move itself, circulate where one wants when one wants, is a liberty pledge for the citizen.

That’s the most literal of translations (I didn’t do it), and it should have read, more freely, something like:

To travel, to move about, where one wants, when one wants, is a badge of freedom for the citizen.

The original title of the article was The Freedom of the City, not For the love of Toronto as it appears in the magazine.  You can understand how the title flows directly from the quotation, but of course in French, there is the subtle echo of the importance of “liberté” as an essential part of national history and pride.

The next sentence on that web page is:

Le développement des Transports Publics répond à ce besoin.

The RATP sees its role in fulfilling that goal, of making the citizenry free to move about the Paris region at all times and to all places.  We’re a long way from doing that in Toronto, but haltingly and far too slowly, things are changing.

My apologies to spacing readers who are probably wondering why such a fractured translation appeared in print.  Such are the joys of being edited by others.

The main thread of this issue is “Grey Spaces”, those not quite public, not quite private spaces in our city we all pass through, or might want to visit, but which are not, strictly speaking, “open” for our use.

Buy the magazine (available in better bookstores).  Read all of the articles!  And thanks!

12 thoughts on “The Freedom of the City — A spacing erratum

  1. Your original title reminds me of the Freedom of the City of London, an honour which comes with traditional rights such as a silken rope, if sentenced to death by hanging, and (according to some) the right to drive sheep and cattle over London Bridge. I always thought an unlimited-use Travelcard would be far more practical.

    Steve: That was more or less the reason for my original title, although driving livestock through the city might be used as yet another reason for delays to the Queen car.


  2. Online translation services are great, eh? You know, many people in Toronto speak French — hey, you speak French! They could have asked you! Well, maybe next time, eh?

    English-Canadians yearn to demonstrate how different they are from Americans. Here’s a notion — they could learn the other official language! Rien de plus simple.

    Steve: I had actually hoped they would have run it with only the French text and presumed on the intelligence of their readers.


  3. Steve you said:

    I had actually hoped they would have run it with only the French text and presumed on the intelligence of their readers

    I say: C’est Impossible


  4. Steve, though I should, as a Canadian, be able to read in both languages, like many others I suffered years of demoralizing classroom French. I only realised later, that I should have cared more. I am afraid that you need to have translations, even for those of us who respect the original text. Bilingualism never went far enough: a mandatory semester on exchange.

    My wife speaks an Asian language, and my child is going to learn all three. I’d say three tongues is the mark of a true urban Canadian: French, English and mother tongue.


  5. > …although driving livestock through the city might be used as yet another reason for delays to the Queen car.

    Poorly implemented “bateaux cygnes” would likely have the same effect, as they become lost in the translation.


  6. Couldn’t the last part also be translated as “a guarantee of freedom for the citizen”? The French word “gage” has multiple meanings — another argument for leaving it untranslated rather than imposing a necessarily deficient translation.

    Steve: Yes. I wrestled with exactly how to translate that to give the flavour of the line. Anyhow, it’s a wonderful way for a transit agency to think of its role as part of its city.


  7. The dwelling on bilingualism as a superior character trait is going to look snobbish to someone who came here as a brand new reader interested in Transit City and the latest gossip on Metrolinx. Unless, of course, they also speak French…

    Steve: Sigh. All I am trying to do is to give the true flavour of a wonderful statement of the role of a transt system, and to correct the translatation with the printed article. Sorry if the idea of just leaving it untranslated seems snobbish.


  8. Does it make me a bad person, to skip french in high school and know just enough to scrape together a 52 final mark? I don’t think so. Most of my family speak it, and the only french I now is autoroute 20 est to get to Atlantic Canada and Autoroute 20 quest to get home. 🙂 Point of this post is… Mangled or not, we can make do with a mangled translation. Japanese to English translations is a giant typo, may I point out the old Nintendo games as an example?

    Steve: Arghhhh!


  9. Sorry I put so many people’s noses out of joint. I didn’t mean to imply that if you don’t speak French you’re morally inferior. I just find it odd that English Canadians choose not to learn it. Here’s an advantage of learning French — you can read Quebec newspapers and watch the Quebec news find out what’s really going on there. It ain’t what our “leaders” are telling us.

    And you could watch Des Chiffres et des Lettres, the most challenging game show I know of (and the world’s longest-running).


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