An embarrassing mistake

  / by Matt

I woke up this morning to find an email forwarded through Joeri, written by Guifré, our Catalan subtitle translator. He was happy after receiving his DVD but surprised to find that the word in the subtitle menu for the Català language was incorrect. Oops…

When I was working on the DVD menus last month, I had the list of languages for the subtitles menu and it was just about ready to go. Joeri and thousands of screaming fans here were rightfully pestering me to get it done as fast as possible, but it bothered me that the list of languages was in English, i.e. the word “Japanese” rather than “日本語”. I proposed to the others that out of respect and appreciation for our volunteer translators, we should have the subtitle names written in the native language, and they all agreed. Since I don’t speak 30 different languages, I looked for a place where I could find translations before sending the file off for encoding.

Being an open project, I naturally thought of Wikipedia, which had served me well in the past, and indeed there’s lots of information (including native spellings) on every language I searched for. However Wikipedia is openly and collaboratively written, and it just so happened that while I was checking for the Català language, a vandal had gone and changed the name of the language to ‘Polaco’ through the article. Guifré tells us that apparently in Català, this is a childish insult sometimes used against Catalan people. I found this today by looking at Wikipedia’s history page of that article for April 7 – the vandalism was corrected quickly in half a day, but in a perfect example of horrible timing, I’d already copied it into Blender.

It was a stupid and regrettable mistake and I really apologise that it happened – I only had the best intentions. What’s weird though is that the word ‘Polaco’ apparently means something like ‘a Polish person’ – I don’t think that’s anything to be insulted about, Polish people are great! :) I also hope everyone can see the humour of it, it’s a successful prankster joke we should just laugh about and then move on shrugging it off. Blender represents a real global community, our Catalan friends should be proud of themselves and consider being called Polaco (Polish) as a compliment instead!

Anyway, there’s not anything we can do now since the DVDs have already been created and sent out, but I have already edited the menu .blend file with the correct word, for any future releases. It definitely raises some issues and thought about the consequences of open content, its manipulation and veracity, and I wonder what sorts of interesting surprises lie ahead now that our own Elephants Dream files are making their way throughout the wide world…

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74 Responses to “An embarrassing mistake”

  1. LetterRip said on 12 May, 2006:


    [QUOTE]They where all very impressed.
    I also showed the blender files and then they started to grasp the difference between the work of 8 people against 200.[/QUOTE]

    Eh the 8 and 200 could you explain a bit more what those numbers are refering to?


  2. FranzRogar said on 12 May, 2006:

    First time I heard that “Polaco” word were applied to Catalan people (note: I’m spanish). Maybe because I always thought that people should not live remembering our “dark ages” or maybe because my family was republicain (aka against the dictature).

    But I know that Calatan people, as other people if there’re any other mistakes, know that you have worked so hard & fast that will laugh with this/these ‘big’ issue/s (hope no more issues ;) ) and wait for Elephants Dream 2

  3. Magnus said on 12 May, 2006:

    If that word is indeed an ethnic slur used by the franquists then it’s no laughing matter.
    I bet those who have grandparents who faught in the civil war would find it hard to laugh at something the fascist used to call them.

    Read the book “Homage to Catalonia” by George Orwell for a good picture of the spanish civil war.

  4. Gerk said on 12 May, 2006:

    Magnus, I am catalan & I think that it is very important laughing about it, insults loose all its power if you don’t mind about them.

  5. Louis said on 15 May, 2006:

    Not a big deal. After all what are human beings made for.
    OBVIOUSLY to commit mistakes, so its hardly a matter of embarrassment.

  6. paprmh said on 17 May, 2006:

    This may be the wrong place to post this, but one thing that may have been overlooked in the dvd is that there are no English subtitles for deaf people… just something to think about for orange2

  7. joeri said on 17 May, 2006:

    Well, I’m afraid it’s not that simple.

    There actualy is a English subtitles for deaf people on the dvd, it only has no menu entry in the language menu’s.
    To access this track you need to use the subtitle menu of your player.
    Now why is it not in the menu you might ask.
    I found out during authoring that a 16:9 menu can only hold 18 buttons (while a 4:3 can have 25), and all the backdrops where just about ready, creating another page to move to was not an option in the given time. So I had to decide which of the languages I had to much ( and that was only one ), I decided to leave out the english version. But only from the menu, not from the subtitle tracks.
    The english sits with the dutch track, and the subtitle-less track.

  8. Loki Clock said on 1 Jun, 2006:

    “Magnus, I am catalan & I think that it is very important laughing about it, insults loose all its power if you don’t mind about them.”

    …Which is why no one can call someone a “pinko commie” with a straight face anymore.

  9. Robotech_Master said on 16 Jul, 2006:

    It’s funny, “pollock” is an epithet/insult in (American) English, too, and a word often used in the context of “dumb [ethnicity or hair color] jokes.” I’d always assumed that was a strictly American usage, but it’s interesting to learn that it has insulting connotations in other languages too. I wonder what the etymology of the epithet is, and whether it had a common origin somewhere in the dawn of history? I can’t think of any particular reason one ethnicity or nationality should be regarded as mentally deficient.

  10. Rosenkrantz said on 16 Jul, 2006:

    “Polaco” (“polish”) it’s a Spanish insult for Catalan people that shown the lack of undertanding that existed (and still exists) in Spain for the Catalan cuture. The word was created beacause some narrow minded Spanish taht were not Catalan, began to say that Catalan language sounded “like Polish”. This insult was common in the fascist dictatorship (1939-1976), may be because Poland was a socialist country and most of the defenders of the democracry were instulted as “reds”. Catalonia standed in the losing side of the Civil War, the side that defended the 2nd Spanish Republic (the democratic state).
    Poland is a country far away from Spain. Most Spanish people know nothing more that where is located (i.e. “East Europe?”, “near Russia?”).
    Catalan people know that “Polish” meaning “Catalan” it’s an insult and most of us have “deactivated” its bad meaning joking about it. The intention is the important thing with insults -I remember watching black commedians saying “nigger” with no ofense intended.

  11. hungry artist said on 16 Jul, 2006:

    You got a problem because you loooked for open (meaning “free”) collaborations. Most of the offers in AV that there are out today are open collaborations, “because there is no money”. No money means either no quality or no hope of deliverance of the lower ranks of the working class. If people do it for free why do producers have to pay? The metter resides in the motto “production gets what it pays for” -sometimes one cannot know the quality of the outcome.

  12. Pete said on 16 Jul, 2006:

    I’m a bit late to this party, but it seems to me that vandalism is vandalism. If the person who did the Wikipedia vandalism can be found, they should at least be held responsible for redistributing the damaged media.

  13. Magnus said on 16 Jul, 2006:

    (This is a different Magnus)

    I know it would have compounded your work, but perhaps by releasing DVD’s for different regions, you could fit all the translations for each region on the DVD menu.

  14. bob said on 17 Jul, 2006:

    I went to Barcelona when I was 19 (SEVERAL years ago…). What I learned while there was not about Spain but about the Catalan culture and how rich and diverse it is. I came back to the States with a much better understanding of the Iberian pennisula than I could have ever gotten from textbooks. The interseting thing about this entire thread for me is that if this mistake had not been made, many folks would never have known anything about the Catalan culture at all. Sometimes mistakes have benefits that are not seen at the outset. If nothing else, it has caused many folks to read a bit more about the Catalan culture and its wonderful people.

    What a great demonstration of the capabilities of this amazing software package. I wish I were as adept at using it’s capabilities as you all are. Kudos!!!


  15. Tomas said on 17 Jul, 2006:

    Actually, if you wonder, tha name “polaco” derives from the fact that the capital of Catalonia is Barcelona, which in catalan is read Barçalona or Barça for short. This sounds exactly like Warsaw which is the capital of Poland. I don’t think it is really offensive in the beginning, but there is a high degree of politization in Spain around periferical regions like Catalonia.


  16. Roi said on 17 Jul, 2006:

    It was not your mistake. These things happen!
    Thanks for your concern.
    I think you are gr8! Hope we’d have the same respect by everybody.


  17. Blieee said on 18 Jul, 2006:

    It was not your fault – more like the vandal’s.
    P.D. Whoever said that the proper word was “polac” needs to check his Catalan. It’s “polonès”.

  18. SinnerBOFH said on 18 Jul, 2006:

    Answering to “65. Tomas”:

    I’m sorry to say that you are mistaken.

    In Catalan, “Barcelona” is spelled “Barcelona”.

    “Barça” is the “nickname” of Barcelona’s main soccer (football) team (F. C. Barcelona, a.k.a. “Barça”)

    As a Catalan, I’m offended with the term being used in the DVD; the moron who vandalized the wikipedia page has managed to send his/her racial-cultural slurs into a DVD, and every time I’d watch the DVD, I’ll get insulted by the aforementioned moron.

    As with everything else, if you change anmything get somebody else to review it!

  19. Sergi said on 19 Jul, 2006:

    I’m catalan and I’ve been in Poland working with polish, they are great people and very gentle… I would be proud of being “confused” with being polish. :)

    “Polaco” is a usually said for spaniards that try to insult a Catalan because we speak, at least, two languages and they can’t understand one of them… so, in fact, they are calling themselves ignorants by being anoyed for the fact that we have another mother tongue.

    Well, at least this “Polaco affair” has done a lot of publicity to Catalan… you have been slashdoted! :D

    Thanks for the translation… keep the good work.

  20. Rob said on 19 Jul, 2006:

    I’ve not yet seen this film, but the “prank” only reminds me about the primary reason I originally jumped into Linux. Education. Originally that was to learn several computer languages, and perhaps gain access to applications like Blender. With this error I am reminded that things that may seem of no importance to me, may cause a break down in relationships with others.

    With family heritage ranging from Spain to Scotland and Ireland, across the Channel to Holland, France and Germany, and a few other nations, my family feet are all over Northern Europe, and, of course, North America. I appreciate hearing the corrections to errors. As a woefully “low context” sort of guy I have a tendency to step on toes unintentionally. So not only do I appreciate the great efforts of the Blender Community, but the great educational effort as well. Well done!

    And amazingly, not a single thing was thrown by a single person. Awesome!

  21. Luis Morais said on 23 Jul, 2006:

    “I don’t think that’s anything to be insulted about, Polish people are great! :) I also hope everyone can see the humour of it, it’s a successful prankster joke we should just laugh about and then move on shrugging it off. Blender represents a real global community, our Catalan friends should be proud of themselves and consider being called Polaco (Polish) as a compliment instead!”

    How patronising is this? You make the mistake and still want to teach us how to feel good about it? Are you suggesting that Catalan people are against polish people for feeling offended by term that was coined by the fascists to denote a son of a prostitute, someone that is worth taking to a concentration camp, a non-Spanish? I had family killed during franquist years, people labelled polaco. Oh dear, go read a little bit more of Wikipedia to know what happened in Spain exactly during Franco times.

    You just make yourself look like an idiot trying to justify the mistake. What is next, jokes about the holocaust?

    Next time, just apologise and shut up.


  22. Albert Gonzalez said on 24 Jul, 2006:

    I think that there’s nothing to worry about.

    If even in the local TV, called TV3, has been broadcasted this spring a great satyrical humor called Polonia, where all the main politicians of Canalonia and spain have been reflected.

    The show theme was inspired in the early 40s russian dessign.

    It was worth a good number of laughs, even when it attacked my own political views.

    Albert Gonzalez.

  23. pi511 said on 26 Jul, 2006:

    extreme sensitivy is non-sense