US President Donald Trump’s use of an obscene word to describe African countries and Haiti has sparked fury and left many media scratching their heads on whether to repeat the slur. The slur came on the eighth anniversary of the Haiti earthquake which killed over 200,000 people.
The UN slammed Mr Trump’s reported description of African nations and Haiti, saying it was “shocking and shameful” and “racist”.
“If confirmed, these are shocking and shameful comments from the President of the United States. Sorry, but there is no other word one can use but ‘racist’,” said Mr Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN human rights office.
Mr Trump made the disrespectful remark when he met with lawmakers at the White House to discuss a proposed bipartisan deal that would limit immigrants from bringing family members into the US, and restrict the green card visa lottery.
He then suggested the US should instead welcome immigrants from places like Norway, whose prime minister met Mr Trump on Wednesday and whose population is overwhelmingly white.
He later implied that he did not describe African and other states as “shithole countries” during a meeting with legislators over immigration.
“This was not the language used,” he said in a tweet. Across the world, many non-English language media outlets had difficulties translating Mr Trump’s colourful epithet into local languages.
The famously polite Japanese media tied themselves in knots trying not to offend their readers, with national broadcaster NHK sticking to “filthy countries”.
Newswire Jiji Press translated the phrase as “countries like toilets”, using a colloquial but not necessarily vulgar term.
Meanwhile, the Sankei Shimbun added nuance by translating it as “countries as dirty as outdoor toilets”.
South Korean media largely took their cue from the country’s biggest news agency Yonhap, which rendered the term as “beggar’s den”.
The prize for the most roundabout translation has to go to Taipei’s CNA news agency who translated it as “countries where birds don’t lay eggs”.
Some countries in Southeast Asia struggled to translate the obscenity because of a lack of verbatim terminology but also due to the term itself, which might be considered too vulgar to translate literally.
Local media in Vietnam varied in strength from “dirty countries” to “rubbish countries” to “rotten countries”.
Meanwhile, Voice of America’s Thai service, which is backed by the US, printed an explanation of the word itself: “This English word could translate as a ‘hole of waste from excrement’, which reflects that he considered [them] low-class countries”. Most Chinese media picked up the story from the overseas version of the People’s Daily, which translated it as “languo”, meaning “bad countries”.