Lost in Translation: Muammar Gaddafi’s Rambling UN Speech Smites Interpreter

200px-Muammar_al-Gaddafi_at_the_AU_summitLibyan leader Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (Moamer Kadhafi) shocked many in refusing to use the vaunted United Nations interpreters and instead brought his own. However, in the course of his rambling, stream-of-conscious speech this week, the interpreter was heard saying into a live microphone, “I just can’t take it any more” and reportedly collapsing. Many of us who listened to the speech had the same sensation.

The leader reportedly told the UN that he needed his own interpreters because he was going to use a special dialect that only Libyans would know. However, he spoke in standard Arabic.

Khadafy is known as a nightmare for interpreters. The Libyans gave this interpreter the day off. It appears that he is fluent in English but less than fluent in Crazy.

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18 thoughts on “Lost in Translation: Muammar Gaddafi’s Rambling UN Speech Smites Interpreter”

  1. Hmmm…propagating another media myth. If what Gaddafi said was pure trash and laughable, why is the translation of the transcript available at the UN website, or anywhere else on the English speaking world’s websites, at least for comedic relief? If Gaddafi is such a ruthless dictator, why are Libyans fleeing their country and this ruthless dictator at the astounding rate of 0/1000 population? When was the last time you met a Libyan immigrant in the U.S.? If he is such a loony, why is he the current chairman of African Union and allowed on stage at the UN General Assembly? What part of the fact that 65+ major wars have been fought since the UN was established, the very thing it was designed to discourage?

    I guess, when we’re blinded by ideology and conscious and unconscious bias, facts mean nothing. Ignorance is bliss.

  2. There was an interesting part where there is a significant gaffe, but it’s not clear if it was on part of interpreter or if Qaddafi made it & interpreter translated it correctly: it was in the part about Qaddafi’s Israel-Palestine (“Isratine”) “solution” — The translator words in question: “…the solution is an Arab democratic sta..uh…is a democratic state without religious fanaticism…” If Qaddafi did in fact have the word “Arab” before “democratic” at first it could be perceived as confirmation of suspected bad faith from the outset.

  3. I hope the interpreters life insurance is paid up and his will and other papers are in order.

  4. That ‘gold sash’ photo must be used in the next USA PSA about the ill effects of drug use. The caption:

    This is what your brain looks like on opiates.

    I tried to watch the HP video when it first posted but I made it thruough 1.5 minutes

  5. I saw part of the speech, or at least as much as I could stand and the following occurred to me. When you have been an absolute and ruthless dictator for 30 years you become used to people praising your every utterance, they’d better. From Ghaddaffi’s perspective he must believe himself a gifted speaker and one who grips the complete attention of his audience, they’d better pay attention in Libya. This is the problem when despite any good intentions, a person holds absolute power. You begin to believe your own magic.

    I personally believed that Fidel Castro began on the right track, but the US immediate assaults upon him at the behest of the supporters of Batista, American business interests and the Mafia, convinced him to cling to power and in that process, in his own mind he became indispensable.

    Baron Acton is correct.

    “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

    You run a country absolutely for 30 years and you become “great” in its history, see Russia Peter the and Catherine the, but you no doubt manage to do a lot of bad things in the process, simply because you come to see yourself as omniscient.

  6. I quit scouting before getting my Dictator merit badge. Well. I didn’t exactly quit. I was asked to leave after tossing the Scoutmaster’s kid in the pool fully clothed. We thought it was hysterical. The Dadster? Not so much. If only my practical joker hadn’t gotten to me? I might be able to macramé a dictator today.

  7. nal:

    “How did I miss “vaulted?” I’m losing my touch.”


    Even the great Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times.

  8. George:

    “I especially like the “festive” sash.”


    Sort of that 60’ish boyscout-dictator look. I think it’s catchy. I like it. Now if we could get “W” to dress up like Bozo we could get that 60’ish clown-clown look!

  9. Jill says, “That outfit’s so loud it deafened the interpreter! It fairly screams–SWAN-KEY. I expect to see it on next season’s runways.”

    I especially like the “festive” sash. 😉

    I also watched a bit of this speech live, but could only take about 10 minutes of it. The whole thing has made me question the amount of time I spend listening to delusional dictators. Oh well. I’m trying to cut back anyway!

  10. That outfit’s so loud it deafened the interpreter! It fairly screams–SWAN-KEY. I expect to see it on next season’s runways.

  11. It’s hard to find a translator fluent in gibberish. It’s a bit like Navajo. If you aren’t raised speaking the particular dialect, it’s hard to pick up.

  12. Are you sure that this is not a Richard Pryor impersonator? Take it back to the airbrush thread.

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