False Friends: When social isn’t “social”

Social and “social” are only partially false cognates, since social may be translated as “social” in many legal contexts, as in seguridad social (“social security”); servicios sociales (“social services”) or asistente social (“social worker”).

But there are several legal contexts in which social cannot be rendered literally as “social.” In business law contexts social often has the meaning of “corporate”, “company”, “business”, etc. Some of the most common expressions in that regard include objeto social (“corporate purpose;” “business purpose”); denominación social (“corporate name”); domicilio social (“corporate address;” “registered offices”); órganos sociales (referring to the “governing bodies” of a company); gestión social (“corporate management”) or documentos sociales (“corporate records;” “business records”).

In this context, the translation of social may depend on the type of business entity it denotes, i.e., whether the term refers to “corporation” or “limited liability company” (sociedad anónima—S.A. or sociedad de responsabilidad limitada—S.L.), or whether the reference is to a “partnership,” which may be a “general partnership” (sociedad colectiva—S.C.), a “limited partnership (sociedad en comandita—S. en C., also called sociedad comanditaria—S.Com.) or a “partnership limited by shares” (sociedad comanditaria por acciones—S. Com. p. A.). For example, the patrimonio social of an S.A. or S.L. may be called “corporate assets,” while the patrimonio social of an S.C. or S.Com. is more appropriately termed “partnership assets.” Likewise, the estatutos sociales of an S.A. or and S.L. may be rendered as “bylaws” (US) or “articles of association” (UK), but the estatutos sociales of an S.C. or S.Com. must be translated as “partnership agreement” or “articles of partnership.”

Similarly, the adjective societario may often be appropriately rendered as “corporate:” Derecho societario (“corporate law,” called “company law” in the UK); delito societario (“corporate crime”); administrador societario (“corporate director”) or velo societario (“corporate veil”), etc. It should be noted, however, that when Derecho societario refers not only to the law governing corporate entities, but other business vehicles as well (cooperatives, associations, foundations, etc.), the expression is generally rendered as “law of business organizations.”

An additional sense in which social cannot be translated as “social” is in the context of labor law in which social means “labor.” Common expressions in which this holds true include legislación social (“labor laws”); jurisdicción social (“labor jurisdiction;” “the labor courts”); juzgado de lo social and juez de lo social (“labor court” and “labor court judge”) and Sala de lo Social del Tribunal Supremo (“Labor Division of the Supreme Court”).

Perhaps reference should also be made here to the often-mistranslated expression graduado social, which I have seen rendered variously as “social science graduate,” “personnel administration graduate,” etc. In Spain graduados sociales are specialists in labor and social security law who have completed a university degree in labor relations and who provide consulting services to companies (and sometimes to labor unions) on employment and social security matters. Thus graduado social may be described as a “labor relations specialist, “labor and social security law consultant,” or with a similar expression that accurately conveys the role they play in Spain. Graduados sociales colegiados (i.e., those who are members of their local professional association) may likewise represent clients in matters brought before the labor courts (tribunales sociales).

For related terminology, see the previous entry on socio: https://rebeccajowers.com/2016/08/12/mistranslations-10/

 

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