Russian translations of their statements on the downed Korean plane

Moscow's English translations of the official Soviet statements on the Korean jetliner were sprinkled with quaint and creaky colloquialisms. Ronald Reagan, said TASS, is acting like an "ignoramus" who sheds "crocodile tears." Protesters who picketed the Long Island estate of the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations behaved like "hooligans." All this international outrage amounts to a "hullabaloo." It was as if a Soviet translator had stumbled onto a dusty dictionary of Anglo-American slang, circa 1913.

Close. In fact, Soviet translators have been weaned on Dickens, Thackeray, Twain and other 19th century writers, which explains why Moscow's attacks, once translated, sometimes seem...

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