The doctor enters to examine his knee surgery patient. Quickly, without any warning, the doctor lifts patient’s leg and bends his knee.  In sheer agony, the patient shouts out what Mr. Spock once called “a colorful metaphor,” a vulgarity, or as Mama called it a bad word.  In fact he went so far as to call the doctor a quite distasteful name that I will not repeat in this blog.

From time to time, interpreters are faced with profanity.  What should they do?  Should they repeat the curse word, or filter it?

The IMIA Code of Ethics states that interpreters “Select language and mode of interpretation that most accurately conveys content and spirit of client’s message.” Based on the code, the answer would be that the interpreter should convey the message accurately.

Think about it…the interpreter is to convey the message as accurately as possible so that the individuals involved can communicate as though they speak the same language.  So if the doctor had spoken Spanish, he would have understood the colorful verbiage himself.

On one occasion, while interpreting a lively message, the doctor looked at me eyes wide open shocked. At that moment, the doctor forgot I was interpreting and thought I called him a *#!!^#.  When I kindly reminded him that I simply was the messenger, he chuckled.

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