Clinton, Lavrov push wrong reset button on ties
Fri Mar 6, 2009

GENEVA, March 6 (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red "reset button" to symbolise improved ties, but the gift drew smiles as the word "reset" was mistranslated into the Russian for "overcharge".

"I would like to present you with a little gift that represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is: ‘We want to reset our relationship and so we will do it together," said Clinton, presenting Lavrov with a palm-sized yellow box with a red button.

Clinton joked to Lavrov: "We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?"

"You got it wrong," said Lavrov, smiling as the two pushed the reset button together before dinner at a Geneva hotel.

He told Clinton the word "Peregruzka" meant "overcharge", to which Clinton replied: "We won’t let you do that to us."

"We mean it and we look forward to it," she said of "resetting" the relationship, a phrase that Joe Biden first used at a security conference in Munich.

Lavrov said he would put the gift on his desk. (Reporting by Sue Pleming; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

It’s not as if Russian was some obscure language spoken by a remote group of nomadic pastoralists in Swat. It’s Russian, for God’s sake. And while today’s mis-translation did no harm, and even provided a spark of humor, one has to wonder what kind of shape State Department is in these days.

"We worked hard to get the right Russian word", Clinton quipped. "Do you think we got it?"

I really hope that isn’t true, that part about working hard to get a single word correct in one of the planet’s major languages–and muffing it. If it is true, then Clinton may have inherited a State Department in worse shape than feared.

Casual Observer

Casual Observer

5 Comments