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Finding space under the umbrella: The Euro crisis, metaphors, and translation

Christina Schäffner, Aston University


The process of European integration has repeatedly been described as a major achievement since the end of the Second World War. The common market and the Euro as the common currency are seen as essential for the success of the European Union (EU). More recently, however, there has been a lot of debate about the economic crisis and the related financial crisis in the euro-zone. In summer 2011, politicians and journalists alike have talked about budget deficits, debts, rescue packages, bail-outs, and fiscal transfers. These political debates are equally of interest to linguists and Translation Studies scholars, as I wish to illustrate in this paper.

In an article about plans of EU member states on how to solve the Euro-crisis, the weekly paper The European Voice reports:

[1] […] officials want to boost the eurozone’s bail-out fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) […].
(Wishart 2011: 2).

What we can notice in the use of language here is specific EU terminology, above all the label ‘European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).’ Terms such as this one have often been characterised as ‘Eurospeak,’ as an example of the jargon typical of European community documents and regulations. Specific features of EU documents have been analysed and commented on with reference to the policy of multilingualism (e.g. Koskinen 2000, Stecconi 2010). Among the recurring issues addressed in this context are clarity and ease of understanding. The extract above, however, also includes EU-specific terms which may be less easy to understand. ‘Boost,’ ‘bail-out fund,’ ‘euro-zone’ are examples of EU vocabulary, and also metaphorical in nature. In German political and journalistic texts, the term ‘European Financial Stability Facility’ is very frequently accompanied or even replaced by another metaphorical expression, namely ‚Rettungsschirm’ (literally: ‘rescue umbrella’). In this paper, I will focus on this metaphorical expression, reflecting on its interpretation from the perspective of conceptual metaphor theory and on translation strategies from the perspective of Translation Studies.

Metaphor and translation

In Translation Studies, metaphors have often been reflected on with respect to translatability ([how] can metaphor be translated? what gets lost in translating metaphor?). Since metaphors are also culture-specific, they cannot be transferred intact from a source language (SL) to a target language (TL). In the literature, we find several procedures for metaphor transfer from SL to TL, or more precisely, from a source text (ST) to a target text (TT). Three main procedures or strategies can repeatedly be found in the literature:

(i) metaphor into same metaphor—direct translation
(ii) metaphor into different metaphor—substitution of the image in the ST by a TL metaphor with the same or similar sense and/or same or similar associations
(iii) metaphor into sense—paraphrase, shift to a non-figurative equivalent

Peter Newmark too, contributed to this scholarly debate, and his seven procedures for metaphor translation have frequently been taken up by other researchers. They are:

1. reproducing the same image in the TL
2. replace the image in the SL with a standard TL image which does not clash with the TL culture
3. translation of metaphor by simile, retaining the image
4. translation of metaphor (or simile) by simile plus sense (or occasionally a metaphor plus sense)
5. conversion of metaphor to sense
6. deletion of the metaphor
7. same metaphor combined with sense (Newmark 1981: 87-91)

These procedures are arranged according to preference, which means that Newmark recommends to translators to opt for the replacement procedure in the first instance and only if this is not possible, e.g. due to cultural clashes, to move down the list and opt for an alternative procedure. Toury (1995: 81ff.) pointed out that these translation procedures start from the metaphor as identified in the ST which is treated as a unit of translation. He contrasts this retrospective approach to his own prospective view, starting from the TT. From the TT perspective, he identifies two additional cases: the use of a metaphor in the TT for a non-metaphorical expression in the ST (non-metaphor into metaphor), and the addition of a metaphor in the TT without any linguistic motivation in the ST (0 into metaphor).

Most of the work in Translation Studies has commented on metaphor in a more traditional view, i.e. defining metaphor as a linguistic expression which can describe “the object more comprehensively, succinctly and forcefully than is possible in literal or physical language” (Newmark 1988: 95). However, since the advent of a cognitive approach, mainly initiated by Lakoff and Johnson (1980), it has repeatedly been demonstrated that metaphors are not just decorative elements or one-off rhetorical flourishes, but rather basic resources for thought processes in human society. They are cognitive devices for forming and communicating conceptualisations of reality.

In conceptual metaphor theory, metaphors are means to understand one domain of experience, a new, unknown one (a target domain) in terms of another, a familiar one (source domain). The source domain is mapped onto the target domain. The structural components of the base conceptual schema are transferred to the target domain, thus also allowing for knowledge based inferences and entailments. Such models are largely encoded and understood in linguistic terms. In cognitive linguistics the term ‘metaphor’ is used to refer to the conceptual mapping (e.g. “ARGUMENT IS WAR” (Lakoff and Johnson 1980: 104), and the term ‘metaphorical expression’ is used to refer to individual linguistic expressions that are based on a conceptualisation and such sanctioned by a mapping (e.g. ‘the opponent’s claims were shot down in flames’). Conceptual metaphor theory has increasingly influenced translation research as well (e.g. Stienstra 1993; Al-Harrasi 2001; Schäffner 2004) and will guide the following reflections.


As indicated above, the label ‚Rettungsschirm’ is widely used in German texts commenting on the Euro crisis. It is used as a synonym for the German equivalent of ‘European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF)’ (‘Europäische Finanzstabilisierungsfazilität’), and also as a synonym for ‘European Stability Mechanism (ESM)’ (‘Europäischer Stabilitätsmechanismus’) which is a permanent instrument intended to replace the EFSF. The EFSF was set up in May 2010, initially for three years, to provide funds for members of the euro-zone who struggled financially. Since then, the media reports on this topic have increased consistently, which has also resulted in an increasing use of the label ‚Rettungsschirm.’

In the illustrations below, I will focus on journalistic texts, and predominantly on articles from the weekly magazines The Economist and Der Spiegel. These two magazines are comparable in nature in that they are considered as high quality and independent magazines which also get cited frequently. The texts selected include interviews with politicians, and in other texts, politicians are quoted in direct or reported speech. In other words, these texts are illustrative of the role of the mass media in disseminating politics (see also Schäffner and Bassnett 2010). Most of the texts from Der Spiegel have also been translated into English for the on-line Spiegel International (for more information on this on-line version and translation practices involved see Schäffner 2005).

Even without applying a conceptual theory of metaphor, ‚Rettungsschirm’ is easily identifiable as a metaphorical expression. What is noticeable in the English translations of texts from Der Spiegel is that ‚Rettungsschirm’ has predominantly been rendered by ‘bail-out fund,’ as illustrated in the example below (underlining mine—CS), an interview which Der Spiegel conducted with Otmar Issing, former chief economist of the European Central Bank. The English translation published by Spiegel International was provided by Christopher Sultan, one of the two professional translators regularly working for Spiegel International (this explicit reference to the translator is given at the end of the text).

[2a] Spiegel: Die Staats- und Regierungschefs wollen den Rettungsschirm aufstocken, so dass er tatsächlich 440 Milliarden Euro mobilisieren kann. Der spätere permanente Rettungsfonds soll sogar über 500 Milliarden Euro verfügen. Sind solche Größenordnungen erforderlich?
Issing: Für mich spielen die Größenordnungen nicht die zentrale Rolle. Entscheidend ist, unter welchen Bedingungen der Fonds sein Geld vergibt. Fatal wäre allerdings, wenn die schiere Größe des Rettungsschirms die Verantwortlichen dazu verleitet, das Geld auch einzusetzen. […]
Spiegel: Rechnen Sie damit, dass auch Portugal und Spanien unter den Rettungsschirm schlüpfen müssen?
Spiegel: Um hochverschuldeten Staaten zu helfen, soll der künftige Rettungsschirm auch Anleihen bedrohter Staaten aufkaufen dürfen […].
(Reiermann and Sauga 2011: 82ff)

[2b] Spiegel: EU leaders want to augment the bailout fund so that it can mobilize €440 billion ($620 billion). The eventual permanent bailout fund is to have more than €500 billion at its disposal. Are these dimensions necessary?
Issing: In my view, the dimensions are not the key issue. More important are the conditions under which the fund distributes its money. It would be fatal, however, if the shear [sic.] size of the bailout fund tempted those in charge of it to dole out the money […]
Spiegel: Do you expect that Portugal and Spain will have to resort to the bailout fund? […]
Spiegel: To help highly indebted countries, the future bailout fund is to be permitted to buy up the bonds of at-risk countries […] (Issing 2011).

In another article (Reiermann 2011a: 25), Klaus Regling is introduced as the „Chef des europäischen Rettungsschirms” in the German text and as “the German CEO of the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility” in the English text (Reiermann 2011b).

In interviews with foreign politicians or articles quoting them, however, ‚Rettungsschirm’ is rarely used when we hear the politicians’ voices (in translation, that is). For example, in an article reporting on a press conference given by Jean-Claude Trichet, the President of the European Central Bank, Trichet is indirectly quoted as speaking of a ‘Rettungsprogramm’ (‘rescue programme’), whereas German politicians (Merkel, Brüderle) use ‚Rettungsschirm.’

[3] Er hoffe, dass das europäische Rettungsprogramm für angeschlagene Staaten der Euro-Zone „qualitativ und quantitativ“ aufgebessert werde, sagte Trichet […] Kernelement des EU-Konzepts aber ist ein umfangreicher Umbau des bisherigen Rettungsmechanismus, der „Europäischen Finanzstabilisierungsfazilität” (EFSF). […] um die Kapitalbasis des Rettungsschirms zu erhöhen. […] Vergangene Woche lehnte Kanzlerin Angela Merkel offiziell noch ab, den Rettungsschirm aufzustocken. […] „Wir können den Rettungsschirm nicht bedingungslos weiter aufblähen” sagte Wirtschaftsminister Rainer Brüderle […] (Reiermann 2011c:22).

(Trichet said he hoped that the European rescue programme for weakened states would be improved “quantitatively and qualitatively” [...] However, the main element of the EU’s concept is an extensive restructuring of the previous rescue mechanism, the ‘European Financial Stability Facility’ (EFSF) […] in order to increase the funds of the bail-out fund […] Last week Chancellor Angela Merkel objected to increasing the bail-out fund […] The economics minister Rainer Brüderle said “We can’t enlarge the bail-out fund without any conditions” […]).1

In interviews with Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and leader of the euro-group, with the Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees De Jager, and with IMF Chief Christine Lagarde, ‚Rettungsschirm’ has consistently been rendered by ‘rescue fund’ or ‘bail-out fund.’ In each case, we read at the end of the English text ‘Interview conducted by Christoph Schult and Michael Sauga’ (for Juncker), ‘Interview conducted by Christian Reiermann’ (for De Jager) and ‘Interview conducted by Marc Hujer and Christian Reiermann’ (for Lagarde). In other words, there is no explicit reference to translation, and it is thus not clear in which language the interview was conducted.

[4a] Spiegel: […] Als Kommissionspräsident José Manuel Barroso jüngst vorschlug, den Euro-Rettungsschirm aufzustocken, hat ihn Angela Merkel umgehend zurückgepfiffen. […]
Juncker: Der Europäische Rat hat im vergangenen Mai beschlossen, dass der Rettungsschirm für hochverschuldete Euro-Staaten 440 Milliarden Euro umfassen soll. […] Wir wollen den Schirm nicht ausweiten, wir wollen dafür sorgen, dass er die geplante Größe auch erreicht. […] Um den Schirm effizienter zu machen, müssen auch Länder wie die Niederlande, Ősterreich, Finnland oder Luxemburg ihren Beitrag leisten (Schult and Sauga 2011: 39).

[4b] Spiegel: […] When European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recently proposed beefing up the euro rescue fund, Angela Merkel promptly shot him down. […]
Juncker: […] Last May, the European Council decided that the bailout fund for highly indebted euro countries would consist of €440 billion ($598 billion). […] We don't want to expand the bailout fund, but we do want to make sure that it reaches its intended size. […] To make the fund more efficient, countries like the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Luxembourg must also do their part (Junker 2011).

[5a] Spiegel: Bleibt als kurzfristige Hilfe der Rettungsschirm EFSF, den die Staats- und Regierungschefs Ende Juli mit neuen Aufgaben, aber nicht mit mehr Geld ausgestattet haben. Müsste er nicht aufgestockt werden, um glaubwürdig zu bleiben?
De Jager: Ich bin nicht generell gegen eine bessere Ausstattung des EFSF, aber auch das ist kein Allheilmittel [...] (Reiermann 2011d: 80).

[5b] Spiegel: The only remaining source of short-term aid is the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailout fund, which the heads of state and government gave new powers to in late July, yet did not provide with more money. Shouldn't it be increased to remain credible?
De Jager: I'm not generally opposed to bolstering the EFSF, but even that is not a panacea. [...] (De Jager 2011).

[6a] Spiegel: […] Ende September übernimmt der europäische Rettungsschirm, die ESFS, diese Aufgabe. Hat es dafür genug Geld? […]
Lagarde: […] bei Bedarf die ESFS aufzustocken (Hujer and Reiermann 2011: 68).

[6b] Spiegel […] At the end of September, the European rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), will take over this task. Does it have enough money to do so? […]
Lagarde: […] That would include increasing the EFSF if necessary, I suppose (Lagarde 2011).

‘Bail-out fund’ is widely used in British media texts in reporting on the euro crisis, as can be seen in the extracts below:

[7] Investors were hoping for a deal to expand the euro zone’s bail-out fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (ESFS) […] (No Author The Economist 2011e: 10).

[8] Angela Merkel has successfully corralled her government into voting for the revamped euro bailout fund, asserting her authority as chancellor by pushing through the bill without needing to rely on opposition help.
Of 611 MPs present in a highly-charged sitting at the Bundestag on Thursday morning, 523 voted in favour of expanding the powers of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) (Pidd 2011).

A Google search for the combination ‘bail-out fund + euro’ brought about 32,300,000 results, and a corresponding search for ‚Rettungsschirm + Euro’ brought about 9,080,000 results, thus providing some statistical evidence of the quantitative dominance of ‚Rettungsschirm’ and ‘bail-out fund’, resp. (‘rescue fund + euro’ resulted in about 5,370,000 hits, and ‚Rettungsfond + Euro’ resulted in about 1,050,000 hits). The German Ministry of Finance also includes ‘Rettungsschirm’ in its definition of ‚Europäische Finanzstabilisierungsfazilität (EFSF),’ cf.:

[9] Die Europäische Finanzstabilisierungsfazilität (EFSF) wurde als zwischenstaatliches Instrument des sogenannten „europäischen Rettungsschirms” eingerichtet und steuert 440 Mrd. EUR zu dessen Garantievolumen bei. (Bundesministerium der Finanzen. Glossar)

The German version of Wikipedia too, informs us that ‚Rettungsschirm’ is a colloquial word for ‚Europäischer Stabilitätsmechanismus’, cf.:

[10] Der Europäische Stabilitäts-Mechanismus (ESM), umgangssprachlich Euro-Rettungsschirm genannt, ist eine geplante Unterstützungsregelung […] (Wikepedia. „Europäischer Stabilitätsmechanismus”).

The official EFSF website (EFSF) provides only general information.

Conceptual metaphor

So far, I have illustrated the use of the corresponding terms in German and English texts, including examples of rendering ,Rettungsschirm’ as ‘bail-out fund’ or ‘rescue fund.’ Using Newmark’s classification, this translation procedure could be described as converting metaphor into sense. If we reflect on the metaphorical expression ‚Rettungsschirm’ from a conceptual point of view, we can ask what the conceptual schema is and by which mappings the expression is sanctioned. In order to arrive at valid insights, it is necessary to investigate more closely the context in which ‚Rettungsschirm’ is used. For the purposes of this paper, I have done such an analysis manually and only on the basis of a limited number of texts. The results are therefore preliminary. An analysis using software (such as WordSmith) and larger corpora would be essential in arriving at more systematic and generalisable results.

As said above, in conceptual metaphor theory, metaphors are means to understand one domain of experience in terms of another one. This understanding is constructed via mappings from the source domain onto the target domain. In our case, the (new, abstract) target domain is the European Financial Stability Facility and/or the European Stability Mechanism, and the (known, concrete) source domain is an umbrella, resulting in the conceptual metaphor THE EFSF / THE ESM IS AN UMBRELLA (I will use the abbreviations EFSF and ESM for ease of reference). However, it is difficult to detect structural components of the base conceptual schema (UMBRELLA) which are transferred to the target domain. In contrast to other conceptual metaphors, such as ELECTRICITY IS WATER FLOWING THROUGH A HYDRAULIC SYSTEM with mappings such as the pipe is the wire, the pump is the battery, water pressure is voltage (i.e. ‘ontological correspondences,’ Kövecses 1986: 8), the mapping in our case seems to work primarily through inferences and entailments (Kövecses’ ‘epistemic correspondences’—for electricity, an implication of the mapping would be that whenever something causes the pressure of water to increase, its mapping equivalent in an electrical circuit should have an analogous effect on voltage, see Foley 1997: 180).

If we look at the context in which ‚Rettungsschirm’ is used we notice two main areas which are linked to entailments. One is related to space and the function of an umbrella, and the other one to size. In the first case, we can visualize an open umbrella, covering people (in this case, countries) who are under it (i.e. the mapping is based on the conceptual metaphor COUNTRIES ARE PERSONS). The typical collocation in German for the action of opening an umbrella is ‘einen Schirm aufspannen,’ as is reflected in the extract below:

[11] 25 Milliarden Euro – um diese Summe könnte die Neuverschuldung des Bundes steigen, wenn der neue Euro-Rettungsschirm (ESM) aufgespannt wird. (Die Zeit 2011).

(25 million euros—this is the amount by which Germany’s debt could increase once the new euro bail-out fund ESM will be in place).

When the umbrella is open (the state of being open) we say ‘der Schirm ist aufgespannt.’ What we see in the extracts below, are slightly unusual collocations in that the verb ‘spannen,’ or the participle ‘gespannt’ is used to refer to a situation in which the umbrella covers several countries, thus giving emphasis to space, cf:

[12] Mitte Dezember hatten sich die Staats- und Regierungschefs der EU darauf verständigt, die europäischen Verträge zu ergänzen, um einen dauerhaften Euro-Rettungsschirm spannen zu können (No Author. Spiegel online 2011a).

(In mid December the heads of government of the EU agreed to amend the European treaties in order to set up a Euro bail-out fund).

[13] Im Hauruckverfahren schnürten Mitgliedsländer und die EU-Kommission Anfang Mai vergangenen Jahres ein Hilfspaket für Griechenland, kurze Zeit später spannten sie für alle weiteren angeschlagenen Länder einen Rettungsschirm, die sogenannte Europäische Finanzstabilisierungsfazilität (EFSF). (Müller and Reiermann 2011).

(In a rush the member states and the European Commission agreed on a rescue package for Greece in early May last year, a short while later they set up the rescue programme, the European Financial Stability Facility, for all affected countries.)

[14] Bislang haben die Regierungen das Gemeinschaftsgeld zu sichern versucht, indem sie immer größere Rettungsschirme über die Euro-Zone spannten (Müller et al 2011).

(Up till now, governments have tried to save the common currency by setting up ever larger bail-out funds for the euro zone.)

The spatial aspect is also obvious in the following extracts, this time, however, in respect of movement. The verbs underlined in the extracts below are verbs of movement, either neutral ones (‘sich begeben’—‘to get’, ‘move’) or verbs which denote an action of a somewhat dubious intention (‘schlüpfen’—‘to slip,’ but with the connotation ‘furtively’). The final result of the movement is being under the umbrella. In extracts 16 and 17 below, we see again that the translator opted for a rendering including the term ‘bailout.’

[15] Im November 2010 begibt sich Irland unter den Rettungsschirm, im April 2011 folgt Portugal (Hawranek et al 2011).

(In November 2010 Ireland succumbed to the rescue fund, in April 2011 Portugal followed.)

[16a] Selbst wenn Griechenland mit dem zweiten Hilfsprogramm unter den Schirm schlüpft, […] (Reiermann 2011e).

[16b] Even when Greece receives help from the fund as part of the second bailout […] (Reiermann 2011f).

[17a] Spiegel: Rechnen Sie damit, dass auch Portugal und Spanien unter den Rettungsschirm schlüpfen müssen? (Reiermann and Sauga 2011)

[17b] Spiegel: Do you expect that Portugal and Spain will have to resort to the bailout fund (Issing 2011)?

‚Schlüpfen‘ is the verb most frequently used. A Google search for ‚unter den Rettungsschirm’ in combination with different forms of this verb brought more than 160,000 results. The implication of being under an umbrella is thus being safe, being rescued from danger. This element of rescue is explicit in the German compound ‚Rettungsschirm’ (literally: ‘rescue umbrella’), and it is interesting to see that this compound is only rarely reduced to the simple word ‚Schirm’ (umbrella’). There is a more direct mapping from our everyday experience: when it starts to rain we open an umbrella in order to be safe from getting wet. Incidentally, the German word for ‘parasol’ is ‚Sonnenschirm’ (‘sun umbrella’), and being under it protects us from the heat of the sun and getting sunburnt. The entailment of being saved is more explicit in the English target texts in extracts 16b and 17b above. These solutions could be described as either metaphor deletion or conversion of metaphor into sense. However, from the perspective of conceptual metaphor theory, we can say that in these cases the translation strategy involves a shift from the structural domain (umbrella) to an entailment (be saved).

In the context of the euro crisis, the aspect of being rescued and thus being safe is also linked to the idea of stability. Stability is one of the core values in politics, which can be sanctioned by several conceptual metaphors (e.g. balancing scales, see Schäffner 1999). EMOTIONAL STABILITY IS BALANCE is also listed on the conceptual metaphor homepage of the University of California, Berkeley, set up by George Lakoff (Conceptual Metaphor).

The aspect of stability is not obvious when we visualise (being under) an umbrella. It does become evident, however, if the focus is on the state of security, which in the context of the euro crisis is linked to money being paid. That is, providing money to unstable and endangered countries results in stability being restored and the countries being rescued from danger. The value of stability is explicit in the very names: ‘European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF)’ and ‘European Stability Mechanism (ESM).’ The aspect of money is linked to the second aspect of the conceptual metaphor which refers to size. Size, however, is now relevant in a different sense compared to the extracts above in which reference was made (explicitly or implicitly) to the umbrella being big enough to provide space for countries to get under it. In the extracts below, the verbs do refer to an enlargement in size, but the visualisation of an umbrella does not work easily. Verbs such as ‚aufstocken’ (‘build up,’ ‘pile up’) imply a vertical dimension (cf. ‚aufstocken’ can also denote literally adding a storey to a building)

[18] [...] den Rettungsschirm aufzustocken. […] „Wir können den Rettungsschirm nicht bedingungslos weiter aufblähen” sagte Wirtschaftsminister Rainer Brüderle […] (Reiermann 2011c: 22).

[19a] Als Kommissionspräsident José Manuel Barroso jüngst vorschlug, den Euro-Rettungsschirm aufzustocken […] (Schult and Sauga: 39).

[19b] Spiegel: […] When European Commission President José Manuel Barroso recently proposed beefing up the euro rescue fund […] (Junker 2011).

[20a] Spiegel: [...] Rettungsschirm EFSF, den die Staats- und Regierungschefs Ende Juli mit neuen Aufgaben, aber nicht mit mehr Geld ausgestattet haben. Müsste er nicht aufgestockt werden, um glaubwürdig zu bleiben?
De Jager: Ich bin nicht generell gegen eine bessere Ausstattung des EFSF, [...] (Reiermann 2011d: 80).

[20b] Spiegel: [...] the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailout fund, which the heads of state and government gave new powers to in late July, yet did not provide with more money. Shouldn't it be increased to remain credible?
De Jager: I'm not generally opposed to bolstering the EFSF [...] (De Jager 2011).

[21a] Lagarde: […] bei Bedarf die ESFS aufzustocken. (Hujer and Reiermann 2011: 68).

[21b] Lagarde: […] That would include increasing the EFSF if necessary, I suppose (Lagarde 2011).

[22a] Spiegel: Die Staats- und Regierungschefs wollen den Rettungsschirm aufstocken (Reiermann and Sauga 2011: 82ff).

 [22b] Spiegel: EU leaders want to augment the bailout fund [...] (Issing 2011).

In the English translations of the German texts, we see that either a more neutral verb has been used to render ‚aufstocken’ (e.g. ‘increase’) or another metaphorical expression (e.g. ‘beef up’). In the German texts, ‚Rettungsschirm‘ is also systematically used in collocations with verbs and nouns which indicate financial aspects more explicitly, such as ‘Anleihen (auf)kaufen’ (‘buy up bonds’), ‘Anleihen übernehmen’ (‘take on bonds’), ‚Kredite gewähren’ (‘grant loans’), as in the example below:

[23] Spiegel: Um hochverschuldeten Staaten zu helfen, soll der künftige Rettungsschirm auch Anleihen bedrohter Staaten aufkaufen dürfen. […]
(Reiermann and Sauga 2011: 82ff).

(In order to help indebted countries, the future bail-out fund will be able to buy up bonds of endangered countries [...].)

Due to the contextual environment in these texts, collocations such as ‚Ausweitung des Rettungsschirms‘ (‘extension of the rescue umbrella,’ Hickmann and Schwennicke 2011: 27) are primarily to be interpreted in the sense of adding money to the funds. However, more money being available also has as an entailment that more countries can receive money to stabilize their finances. Compared to the image of more countries finding space under the enlarged umbrella, we can conclude that the aspects of space and money are merged and share the feature of quantity. The element of money is more explicit in the phrase ‘bail-out fund’, with the implication equally being that if a country has been bailed out of its debts, it has been rescued and thus a stable and secure situation has again been achieved. This metaphorical expression can also be explained as being sanctioned by the conceptual metaphor MONEY IS WATER, or MONEY IS A LIQUID, with the flow of water being mapped onto the flow of money.

Innovative metaphor?

As we have seen, the umbrella metaphor is very frequently used in German texts, whereas the dominant labels in English texts are ‘bail-out fund’ and ‘rescue fund.’ We have also seen that ‚Rettungsschirm’ has predominantly been rendered into English target texts by ‘bail-out fund’ or ‘rescue fund.’ It seems therefore, that the translators opted for the most obvious ‘equivalent’ expression, i.e. the expression that is typically used in the target language texts dealing with the topic of the euro crisis. In his work on metaphors, Newmark (1981) distinguishes between five types: dead, cliché, stock, recent, and original metaphors. It has often been argued that original and recent metaphors can more easily be translated. Newmark agrees in principle to this view, saying that reproducing the same image in the target language through a straightforward literal translation would be the most appropriate strategy for preserving the novelty and vividness of the image. ‚Rettungsschirm’ could be described as an original metaphor, and also as a recent one. The question therefore is, why have the translators not opted for reproducing the image?

A Google search for ‘rescue umbrella + ESFS + euro’ has actually resulted in about 7,040 results. Compared to the other search results presented above, the quantity is much less significant, but it also illustrates that the metaphor is being used in English texts. However, when we look more closely at these English texts which do speak of ‘rescue umbrella’ in the context of the EFSF, we notice that these are mainly articles which originated in Germany, with no explicit indication provided about the producer of the English versions. Among these texts are reprints of articles (extracts 24 and 25), interviews with politicians conducted by German journalists (26), articles in which German politicians are quoted (27, 28, 29), a comment to a blog (30) and an annual report from a company (31).

[24] EU Rescue Fund: Ireland—Sending Out an SOS?
Christoph Weil, Commerzbank, Frankfurt.
This article appeared in the November 2010 issue of Current Economics with permission of the author.

A country will only slip under the EU rescue umbrella if the associated economic and political benefits outweigh the costs. The great advantage of the ESFS safety net is that it helps to secure public financing over a three-year period, at conditions that are acceptable (Weil 2010).

[25] Financial analysts were disappointed that the lending capacity of the EFSF, currently topped at 440 billion euros, was not raised to provide a bigger umbrella in case bigger economies need bailouts (Thomet 2011).

[26] Interview with Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the ECB, conducted by Helga Einecke and Hans-Jürgen Jakobs,

SZ: The rescue umbrella, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), has been significantly upgraded. What is your opinion on the construction of such a “European Monetary Fund?” (Einecke and Jakobs 2011).

[27] Washington - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble Saturday said he was open to an earlier launch of a permanent rescue umbrella for the eurozone if possible (Brandmaier and Stahl 2011).

An article in the online magazine Eurointelligence quotes Jens Weidmann, the new President of the German Federal Bank, as saying that

[28] [...] confidence in Germany’s own capacity is critical for the success of the rescue umbrella (No Author Eurointelligence 2011b).

In another text which also quotes Weidman, it seems that a machine translation system has been used:

[29] Under an umbrella in the transfer union: Weidmann requested corrections.

The euro rescue course remains controversial. The Bundesbank president warned at a hearing in parliament before a transfer union. (No Author 2011)

[30] The 440 billion € rescue fund won’t cover Spain and Italy should they sneak under the umbrella (No Author EU Chronicle 2011d).

[31] To calm the capital markets and secure the stability of the single currency, the member countries of the eurozone, the European Commission and the IMF set up a ‘rescue umbrella’ of loans and guarantees with a total volume of €750bn (Munich Reinsurance Company 2010).

The extract below was published on Spiegel Online on 11 March 2011, in both German and English. The journalist is Carsten Volkery, the Spiegel correspondent based in the UK. It is only once though that he renders ,Rettungsschirm’ literally as umbrella, and this is in the collocation ,unter den Schirm flüchten’ (take cover under the rescue umbrella), i.e. in the spatial scenario.

[32a] Aufstockung des temporären Rettungsschirms für eventuelle weitere Pleitekandidaten
Ausgestaltung des dauerhaften Euro-Rettungsschirms (ESM), [...]
Als flankierende Maßnahme zum Rettungsschirm besteht Merkel außerdem darauf, [...]
Es ist wahrscheinlich, dass der Spielraum des temporären Rettungsschirms ausgeweitet wird. [...]
Die Aufstockung gilt als Vorsichtsmaßnahme für den Fall, dass bald weitere Pleitekandidaten unter den Schirm flüchten müssen (Volkery 2011a).

[32b] An increase in the capital and guarantees in the existing European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) so that it can cope with cases of further countries potentially facing insolvency
The structure and composition of the permanent European Stability Mechanism (ESM) rescue fund [...]
As accompanying measures to the rescue package, Merkel also insists [...]
It is likely that the temporary rescue system will be enlarged to give leaders more leeway. [...]
The increase is a precautionary measure in the event that other bankruptcy candidates will soon also have to take cover under the rescue umbrella (Volkery 2011b).

Mixed metaphors

The frequency in the use of ,Rettungsschirm,’ in particular in journalistic texts, was commented on in an ironical way in an online article of the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The journalist Axel Hacke commented in particular on collocations (e.g. ‘sneak under the umbrella,’ ‘open the umbrella’), criticising the illogical puns, and then he reflected on the image associated with it. He says that his own initial image of a ‚Rettungsschirm’ was that of a parachute (,Fallschirm’ in German) which would bring the Euro safely down to earth (which is also indicative of the rescue idea). Based on the collocations, his conclusion, however, is that the ,Rettungsschirm’ is perceived as an umbrella:

[33] Unter den Euro-Rettungsschirm wird gekrochen, geschlüpft, er wird auf- und zugespannt und nach Herzenslust erweitert – Wortspiele noch und nöcher! Wo kommen wir denn da hin?
Bei fiel mir eine ältere Meldung auf. Es kam der schöne Satz vor: „In Höchstgeschwindigkeit ist Irland am Ende unter den Rettungsschirm für angeschlagene Euro-Staaten geschlüpft.
Seltsam: Verband ich nicht mit dem Euro-Rettungsschirm immer unwillkürlich die Vorstellung eines Fallschirms, an dem hängend der Euro gemächlich zu Boden segelt, vorm freien Sturz gerettet? Wie aber soll man unter einen solchen Fallschirm „schlüpfen können, noch dazu in Höchstgeschwindigkeit?”  [...]
Also: Der Rettungsschirm ist ein Regenschirm, das geht aus vielen Formulierungen hervor. Überall heißt es, der Rettungsschirm werde aufgespannt, eingerichtet, aufgestellt, er stehe [...]
Deshalb erscheint sinnvoll, dass die FAZ meldet: „Barroso will größeren Euro-Rettungsschirm.” Der Rettungsschirm solle erweitert werden, ja, ausgedehnt, flexibilisiert, sogar gestärkt. [...]
Und was der Rettungsschirm alles kann! Und was nicht! „Der neue Rettungsschirm ist ein Fass ohne Boden,” schrieb die Welt. Er sei „ein wichtiges Sicherheitsnetz,” heißt es auf der Internetseite einer Bank [...].
(Hacke 2011).

(Countries crawl or sneak under the euro rescue umbrella, it is opened and closed, and enlarged at will—puns and new puns. Where will this take us?
I noticed some previous piece of news at There was the sentence ‘At the end, Ireland sneaked under the umbrella for endangered countries at high speed.’
Strange: I always thought of the euro rescue umbrella as a parachute, from which the euro would come down to earth slowly, not falling down suddenly. But how can you sneak under a parachute, and how at that at high speed?
This means that the rescue umbrella is an umbrella protecting from rain, as we can conclude by looking at the various formulations. We read that the umbrella is opened, set up, it is open [...]
Therefore it makes sense when the FAZ reports “Barroso wants a bigger rescue umbrella.” The rescue umbrella is to be enlarged, extended, to be made more flexible, to be strengthened [...]
The rescue umbrella is able to do, or not to do, a lot of things. “The new rescue umbrella is a barrel without a bottom,” writes Welt. It is an “important safety net,” we read on a web page of a bank [...].)

In this article, the author also comments on collocations in which the image of the umbrella has disappeared, such as ,Rettungsschirm flexibilisieren’ or ,stärken’ (‘make the rescue umbrella more flexible’, ‘strengthen it’). In the last sentence of the article, he quotes extracts from other texts which are even more illogical if we think of any mapping between a fund and an umbrella. Whereas 'Sicherheitsnetz‘ (‘safety net’, also used in extract 24) is still linked, by entailment, to the aspect of stability, ,ein Fass ohne Boden’ (literally: ‘a barrel without a bottom,’ used in the sense of being an endless drain on resources) invokes a new image of a liquid constantly getting out of a barrel (which is linked to the conceptual metaphor MONEY IS A LIQUID mentioned above). What these examples also illustrate is that with more frequent use, the umbrella image tends to get into the background and the fund (i.e. the abstract facility or mechanism) is seen as an object, becoming sanctioned by the conceptual metaphor THE EFSF/ESM IS A CONTAINER. The borders of the container are also perceived as providing protection (cf. fire wall, barrier in extract 35 below). Moreover, movement metaphors (DEVELOPMENT IS MOVING ALONG A PATH) and container metaphors are merged in the texts, as can be seen in the extracts below:

[34] Geht der neue Rettungsschirm mit Verspätung an den Start?
(Hickmann et al 2011: 22).

(Will the new rescue fund start with a delay?)

[35] They are, at last, focusing on the right priorities: building a firewall around illiquid but solvent countries like Italy [...].
Germany [...] is reluctant to boost Europe’s rescue fund; yet a bigger fund is needed if a rescue is to be credible. The most urgent solutions, such as restructuring Greece’s debt or building a protective barrier around Italy [...] (No Author The Economist 2011f: 14).

[36] […] the Europeans agreed that there must be a plan to ring-fence solvent but illiquid economies, beef up the main bail-out fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) […].
By its own ponderous standards, the euro zone has changed course quite fast. It has bailed out three countries, created an embryonic rescue fund and, only this week, toughened up fiscal discipline with threats of early sanctions for miscreants (No Author The Economist 2011g: 25).


In his discussion of metaphors, Newmark links the translation strategies both to the type of metaphor (stock, recent, dead etc) and to the type of text in which they are used. For original metaphors in journalistic texts he argues as follows: “Whether these metaphors should be reproduced semantically (by equivalent metaphor or sense) depends on whether they are written for accurate description (the true purpose of metaphor) or merely for effect, for ornament, for sensation, its main media use, in which latter case the translator may prefer compensation to translation, that is, producing his metaphors elsewhere where he thinks they will have maximum effect” (Newmark 1981: 94). We could say that ‘accurate description’ is probably not at all the purpose of using ‚Rettungsschirm’ in the German texts. However, as proponents of a conceptual metaphor theory have argued, ‘accurate description’ is itself a very problematic issue. Moreover, the journalists do not use ‚Rettungsschirm’ purely for ornament or sensation either. As the examples illustrate, both the structural components of the source domain (umbrella) and, even more so, the entailments are being employed to reflect on policies and consequences of decisions. Therefore, the metaphorical expressions and the conceptual metaphor(s) by which they are sanctioned do have a significant role to play in constructing knowledge.

At the beginning of this paper, I referred to terminology linked to EU policies. ‘EFSF’, ‘ESM,’ and ‘rescue fund’ can more easily be described as technical terms. ‚Rettungsschirm,’ however, may be more difficult to identify as a technical term. It is not often used in official documents, but in speeches and interviews, politicians make use of this metaphorical expression more frequently. For translation purposes, Newmark argues that an “international technical term is always translated, though preferably by an authorized translator connected to an appropriate international organisation” (Newmark 1981: 92). The examples I have looked at do not reveal a particular pattern as far as strategies and institutional contexts are concerned. In reporting on a vote on the EFSF in the German Parliament, the official website (with texts translated by a translation department) does not use a literal translation, cf.:

[37a] Bundestag und Bundesrat haben dem schlagkräftigen Euro-Rettungsfonds EFSF zugestimmt. Der Fonds dämmt die Ansteckungsgefahren ein, die von den Schuldenländern auf die gesamte Euro-Zone ausgehen. Der Rettungsschirm gibt Schuldenländern wie Griechenland die Chance, wieder wettbewerbsfähig zu werden [...] (Bundesregierung 2011a).

[37b] With a convincing majority the German Bundestag has voted in favour of the more effective euro-zone rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). The EFSF is to stem the danger of the problems of heavily indebted euro-zone states spreading to the euro zone as a whole. It will give struggling states like Greece a chance to become competitive once more [...] (Bundesregierung 2011b).

Such official texts are what Newmark calls “authoritative texts.” In his view, the message and the words are equally important, and therefore such texts should not be changed when translated. He says that political writing “is likely to be ‘sacred,’ and therefore translators cannot interfere with the text” (Newmark 1981: 160). This also means that the original image should be retained in the case of metaphors. However, as we have seen in the extracts, this is not what translators have done, whether in official texts or in interviews with politicians or when using direct quotes from politicians, i.e. examples which would equally count as authoritative texts. The reasons for this may be manifold. In some cases, translators (or journalists including extracts from texts initially produced in language in their own writings—a common practice in news translation, as illustrated in Bielsa and Bassnett 2009) may have taken the conscious decision to opt for the more established terms ‘bail-out fund’ or ‘rescue fund.’ The source language may also have been an influential factor. I have noticed that ‚Rettungsschirm’ has not been used to render ‘rescue fund’ if German is the target language. Nevertheless, if we compare the metaphorical expressions in source text and target text and interpret them against the background of conceptual metaphor theory, we can say that the more traditional translation procedures (such as the seven proposed by Newmark) have their limitations (see also Al-Harrasi 2001; Schäffner 2004). A conceptual view allows a reinterpretation of procedures. For example, Newmark’s conversion of image into sense can be reinterpreted as change of perspective within the same conceptual domain (as would be the case when ‚Rettungsschirm’ is rendered as ‘rescue fund’). But more empirical analyses would be required to identify strategies and to test new categorisations suggested on the basis of a conceptual metaphor theory. More importantly, however, we need to link the textual analysis to an analysis of the social, cultural, institutional etc. circumstances under which translators have made their specific linguistic choices. Such a broader perspective will add more insights into translation procedures and thus enhance our understanding of translation to which Peter Newmark devoted his scholarly work.

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Websites and journalistic references

Note 1:
Translations are mine unless stated otherwise.
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