lundi 22 novembre 2010

Grammar experts needed for pope comment on condoms

Blog Reuter

Male prostitutes? Did Pope Benedict actually say that only male prostitutes can use condoms to avoid transmitting the HIV virus? Why did he limit this unsuspected flexibility only to men?

Well, it’s not actually clear from the new book Light of the World, where this statement appears, that he is only talking about male prostitutes. [...]

The problem is that the pope gave the interview in his native German [...]. The key phrase about condom use reads in the English translation: “There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be the first step in the direction of a moralisation.”

In German, Benedict says “ein Prostituierter,” which signifies a prostitute of the masculine gender. This could refer literally to a man. But he could also be using the grammatical masculine gender, the default when speaking about any human individual in general. [...]. Benedict could have made himself clearer by expressly saying “male prostitute” — “ein männlicher Prostituierter” — but he didn’t. [...]

The English translator got around this by adding the adjective “male.” The French translator was able to follow the German example and write “un prostitué” in the masculine gender rather than “une prostituée.” But Italian grammar apparently doesn’t allow such an easy switch, so the Vatican daily referred to “una prostituta” in the feminine gender.

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