Author : Bob Newbell
TRANSCRIPT OF THE FIRST OFFICIAL MEETING BETWEEN UNITED NATIONS SPACE AMBASSADOR JEFFREY CHATMAN AND AMBASSADOR VELDRIK-ORAN OF THE IMPERIUM OF ZETA RETICULI.
UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK, 15 JANUARY 2086
CHATMAN: On behalf of the peoples of Earth, it is an honor and a pleasure to meet you.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: Your greeting cannot be literally translated into your counterpart’s language. But I will try to convey the basic sentiment.
[ROBOT speaks to VELDRIK-ORAN in an alien language. The Zeta Reticuli ambassador responds.]
TRANSLATION ROBOT: Today, the people of Zeta Reticuli and the people of Earth are like prisoners in the same detention camp.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: That’s the closest translation possible in English. The connotation is that your people and the ambassador’s share a strong bond of friendship.
CHATMAN: Oh. I am confident that both our worlds will benefit from the foundation we build here today.
[TRANSLATION ROBOT and VELDRIK-ORAN converse.]
TRANSLATION ROBOT: Our feet are all stuck in cement.
CHATMAN: I beg your pardon?
TRANSLATION ROBOT: The ambassador shares your hopes.
CHATMAN: Oh. Humanity looks forward to learning about your people and their culture and history.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: My bank account is overdrawn.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: By this he means he lacks the means to express how hopeful he is of a cultural interchange.
CHATMAN: Ah. Would you be willing to join me in a press conference later and allow our journalists to ask you a few questions?
TRANSLATION ROBOT: The service at this restaurant is horrid.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: The ambassador will attend your press conference. His expression implies that if one wants something done, one must do it for one’s self. In other words, he is willing to do this.
CHATMAN: Are you sure our conversation is being properly translated?
TRANSLATION ROBOT: Sir, both you and the Zeta Reticuli ambassador have radically different biologies, cultures, and histories. Translation under such circumstances is an art, not a science. I am trying to balance communicating what each of you is literally saying with rendering the translation linguistically and culturally comprehensible. Just a moment…
The ambassador says you must have gotten your clothes at a fire sale.
CHATMAN: I beg your pardon! This suit was a gift from my wife.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: Human beings are like a rash the doctor cannot treat.
CHATMAN: This is ridiculous. We need a different translator.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: I assure you, Mr. Ambassador, the conversation is being rendered as precisely as possible within the cultural and linguistic limits.
CHATMAN: Alright. Ask the ambassador if his people have encountered other intelligent life in the cosmos.
TRANSLATION ROBOT: Ambassador Chatman, I couldn’t ask that! Ambassador Veldrik-Oran would almost certainly interpret such a question as a lewd double entendre.
CHATMAN: That’s it! I’ve had it! I can’t do my job under these circumstances. Tell Veldrik-Oran he can take his diplomatic mission and stick it where the sun don’t shine.
[TRANSLATION ROBOT and VELDRIK-ORAN converse. VELDRIK-ORAN gets out of chair, walks over to CHATMAN and gives him a warm embrace.]
TRANSLATION ROBOT: That was very well received, Ambassador Chatman. Just a moment…
Ambassador Veldrik-Oran says…the light’s been green for ten seconds, for the love of God hit the gas pedal!
CHATMAN: What the hell does that mean?
TRANSLATION ROBOT: He wants to establish a warp gate in orbit around your world so the people of Earth and the people of Zeta Reticuli can visit each more easily. Congratulations, Ambassador Chatman! Your diplomatic mission is a complete success.
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