The danger of ambiguous words

Translators have a great deal of responsibility.

A typical example of this is the meaning of the Japanese word mokusatsu.

As an example, during World War II, the US, pressuring Japan to surrender, sent a term to the country saying that an attack would be launched if Japan refused to surrender.
Japan’s response to US pressure was summed up in the word “mokusatsu,” an ambiguous word that can mean "ignore" or "silence."

The publication of Japan's position in the world media combined these connotations with that of contempt.

As history tells us, such a translation may have contributed to the later attacks on Japan that resulted in the great tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


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