It’s hard to avoid Brexit at the moment. I don’t intend to add to the commentary that’s already out there. Suffice it to say it’s a colossal mistake.
Anyway, I was listening to the news on the radio this morning, and the expression no-deal Brexit was mentioned (probably already for the fifth time today). As any innocuous word or phrase tends to do, this got me thinking.
How is no-deal Brexit translated into other languages? Specifically the languages I’m familiar with; French, Irish, and Italian.
I didn’t have much time to ponder this, as I had to leave for work.
But then earlier this evening I was listening to the news in Italian while making dinner, when the phrase Brexit senza accordo popped out at me.
Ah, of course that’s it in Italian! A pretty straight translation (Brexit without deal).
I’d wondered specifically about no-deal Brexit, because it’s an example of the common English-language phenomenon that is a compound noun (if you treat the whole thing as a single word, which it effectively is). A fairly complex compound noun at that, formed of three separate component words, the first two of which are themselves joined together to form a compound adjective.
It’s pretty easy to make such words in English (fat-free yoghurt, third-world country, single-use cup etc.) It’s a great shortcut, saving us having to use grammatically-correct, if cumbersome, expressions. Imagine always having to refer to a Brexit without an agreement, for example.
So I was curious to see how other languages, perhaps less permissive of such abbreviation, would manage.
Well, in the case of Italian at least, pretty well!
Brexit senza accordo (when speaking you effectively drop the A in senza, to save an awkward pause, so it’s effectively Brexit senz’accordo) has a smooth rhythm to it, and fits well into the groove of an ordinary Italian sentence. Sure, it’s two syllables longer than no-deal Brexit, but they flow together nicely. Quite simply, it’s easy to say, and easy on the ear.
And grammatically, it’s not doing anything revolutionary. It’s almost fully-grammared, just missing un before accordo, which would then make it an exact translation of Brexit without a deal. It’s pretty close an equivalent to no-deal Brexit actually: catchy and simple and doesn’t really required any complicated gymnastics. Even simpler really, as there’s very little abbreviation involved, and apart from dropping the indefinite article, is the equivalent of the fully-grammared Brexit without a deal.
Which, sadly, is much simpler than the actual no-deal Brexit the UK is heading for!