False Friends: When is a billón not a billion?

Oh, no! False Friends
When learning legal terminology in a bilingual context one of the first pitfalls encountered are so-called “false friends,” words or expressions that appear to be cognates, but are actually unrelated in meaning. Many years ago I set about identifying the “Top 40 False Friends in Spanish-English Legal Translation.” As the list grew I had to change the title to “101 False Friends.” In my collection I now have well over that number and will be sharing some of them in this blog. To be fair, many are only partial false friends that may actually be cognates when used in one branch of law, while perhaps qualifying as false friends in another legal practice area. And in some instances the cognate may simply not be the most appropriate rendering in legal contexts.

billón ; billion

Although these are not strictly legal terms, confusing billón and “billion” may give rise to mistakes in legal translation. As defined in the DLE, in Spain billón is a million millions (i.e., un millón de millones que se expresa por la unidad seguido de 12 ceros). In the US, however, a “billion” is a thousand millions (un millar de millones, o la unidad seguido por 9 ceros). In the UK, prior to 1974, a billion was traditionally defined as a million millions, in line with Spanish usage, and the US billion (a thousand millions) was called a “milliard.” In 1974 Prime Minister Harold Wilson announced that, in conformity with international custom, UK government statistics would adopt the “billion = thousand millions” definition, which is now prevalent in official documents and in the British press. Nevertheless, to avoid confusion translators should be aware that some older UK or other English-language sources may use the term “billion” with the meaning of “a million millions.” Moreover, it is worth noting that the EU’s Interinstitucional Style Guide for publications in English indicates that “‘billion’ is used to designate a thousand million (and not a million million) and ‘trillion’ a million million.” (http://publications.europa.eu/code/en/en-4100500en.htm)

Read more here:



False Friends: Pay me but don’t take retribution!

Oh, no! False Friends

retribución; retribution

These terms are true false cognates. Retribución denotes recompensa o pago de algo. In contrast, “retribution” only rarely has the meaning of recompense or reward, and is usually associated with punishment (castigo) or taking vengeance (venganza) for wrongdoing, often being used in that sense in criminal law contexts (“retributive justice,” the “retributive theory of punishment,” etc.).

Thus in corporate law contexts, retribución de los administradores (or) consejeros refers to “directors’ remuneration (or) compensation,”* rather than “directors’ retribution,” as the expression has sometimes been mistranslated in Spanish sources. In that regard, the boards of directors of large Spanish corporations often have a Comité de Nombramientos y Retribuciones (“Appointments and Remuneration (or) Compensation Committee”). And in this context, retribución en especie refers to “non-cash compensation” or “compensation in kind,” while retribución por horas extraordinarias is “overtime pay.” Other examples include política de retribuciones (“remuneration policy;” “compensation policy”); paquete de retribuciones (“pay package”) and retribución por vacaciones (“vacation/holiday pay”).

*“Compensation” would perhaps be the preferred term in the US, while “remuneration” is more often used in the UK.


Capsule Vocabularies: medidas cautelares (2)

Legal translators (and lawyers and professors) often require a minimum basic vocabulary in a specific area of law, something that they will be hard pressed to find searching word-by-word in a dictionary. (In this case, the “problem” with dictionaries is that they are in alphabetical order.) Blog entries labeled “Capsule Vocabularies” feature some of the basic terminology lists developed for use by my students of Legal English that I hope may also be of interest to translator and interpreter colleagues and other legal professionals.

Vocabulary Medidas Cautelares 2

A previous post featured the basic vocabulary of Spanish provisional remedies proceedings and the requisites for granting provisional remedies. Here we look at some of the specific remedies available under the Civil Procedure Act (Ley de enjuiciamiento civil), providing a brief description where warranted and a possible English translation for each. (The source of this terminology is my Léxico temático de terminología temática español-inglés.)

  • medidas cautelaresprovisional remedies; interim/interlocutory remedies; interim relief (or) injunctive relief (if the relief granted is an injunction—orden de hacer o no hacer)
  • embargo preventivo de bienes—pretrial/prejudgment attachment of assets
  • auto de embargo preventivo—writ of attachment; pretrial/prejudgment attachment order
  • anotación preventiva de demanda—notice of lis pendens; notice of pendency of action (entered on public registers)
  • orden de hacer o no hacer—mandatory or prohibitory injunction
  • orden de cesación/abstención/prohibición provisional—temporary restraining order; preliminary injunction; cease and desist order
  • intervención judicial de bienes productivos—placement of productive assets under judicial supervision (to monitor defendant’s management decisions)
  • interventor judicial—court-appointed supervisor (of defendant’s affairs)
  • administración judicial de bienes productivos—placement of productive assets under judicial receivership (appointment of a receiver to manage defendant’s assets)
  • administrador judicial—court-appointed receiver/manager (of defendant’s assets)
  • depósito de cosa mueble—consignment of personal property
  • depósito de las cantidades reclamadas—deposit into court of amounts claimed
  • formación de inventario de bienes—taking an inventory of defendant’s assets

Read more: Víctor Moreno Catena and Valentín Cortés Domínguez. Derecho Procesal Civil, Parte General. Valencia: Tirant lo Blanch, 2015, Lección 29: “Las medidas cautelares”, pp. 419-439.