Lost in Translation?

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.: If British nanny Louise Woodward is ever convicted in the death of 8-month old Matthew Eappen, her defenders will be able to say it was the first murder case that hinged on transatlantic semantics. For what emerged in Woodward's testimony Monday is yet another example of what George Bernard Shaw meant when he called Britain and America "two nations divided by a common language."

Prosecutor Gerald Leone Jr. was incredulous as Woodward repeated exactly what she told police the night of baby Matthew's death: that she had done nothing more than "popped him on the bed." Any Briton will tell you that means nothing more violent than gently placing the baby on the bed; in the U.S., however, the phrase takes on much more sinister connotations.

Translation trouble notwithstanding, Woodward has given a calm and composed performance on the witness stand one that has trial observers talking of an early acquittal. Her credibility remained unshaken by the prosecution's main revelation that she had used fake ID to get into Massachusetts bars. Not only is that offense common enough among American teens, but at 19 years old Woodward is legally entitled to drink in her home country. All she needs now is a Webster's Dictionary.