The Little Translator 1:
Curious scenes and a certain amount of confusion at the Central Court yesterday as it heard a case of disorderly conduct leading to a breach of the peace in the city by an unemployed translator, L.T., who gave his address as Holly Road.
Sergeant Ernest Hopkins, summoned to give evidence by the prosecution, reported his unit had been called to Leeson Street in the city on Wednesday evening at approximately 3 am following complaints by local residents of a disturbance. The police remonstrated with the defendant at the scene of the incident. When questioned by the defence, Mr. George Fox, as to the altercation, Sergeant Hopkins took out his notebook and read as follows:
“We were told the defendant had been throwing stones up at the window of commercial premises, a translation agency, sir. When we arrived on the scene and approached him, he was relieving himself against a lamp post and shouting while brandishing what later transpired to be a half bottle of Mundie’s wine, sir. He was shouting “Horny swanky mallypants” and, although I did not understand the actual meaning of this, the situation naturally conveyed to me the impression we were dealing with an aggressive and offensive drunk, sir, and so we proceeded ...”
“Horny swanky mallypants?” repeated the defence, to a certain amount of sniggering around the court. “It doesn’t seem so injurious to me, officer. Rather childish, perhaps, but hardly life-threatening, wouldn’t you agree?”
Sergeant Hopkins cleared his throat. “Yes, sir, ahem, but that wasn’t what the defendant had really said. He shouted it again and again, and in fact since we were none the wiser I eventually asked him to write it down, sir.”
“What?” interrupted Mr. Justice Whitbread, leaning across from the bench. “You actually asked him to write it down?”
“Yes m’lud. For the report, m’lud. In the force we have to note things down word for word, you see. Regulation 478 stroke C, subsection A, paragraph 9 (d), sir. So I gave him pen and paper, m’lud. Took ever so long to write it, too, sir. Bit of a shaky hand. Drink had obviously been taken, sir”, he finished, to the titters of the general public.
“And what did he write in the end?” asked Mr. Fox.
Sergeant Hopkins consulted his notebook again. “Honi soit qui mal y pense, sir, not the other horny mallypants thing. It’s French, sir – I looked it up at the station later. Means, er, Evil be to Him what Evil Thinks. That’s what he said”.
“WHO, Sergeant”, Mr. Fox corrected him.
Sergeant Hopkins’ brow creased over in surprise. “Who, sir? Why, the defendant, sir. I just said so” (more laughter). “Shouting it and shouting it he was, sir. While urinating, as I stated before, and …”
“No, no, Sergeant”, interrupted the defence gently, “you’re mistaken in your …”
The Sergeant’s puzzlement heightened. “No, there’s no mistake, sir, it was that bloke over there all right.” His face registered a certain amount of indignation as he added: “That’s why we’re all here in court, sir. Oh yes, we found him in faganti. A genuine faganti, sir”.
“No,” said Mr. Fox patiently, amid some open guffawing from the public gallery, “I only meant WHO as in …”
The judge banged his gavel. “Silence in court! Mr. Fox, could we possibly get on with things here? I’ve two assault and batteries, a couple of cases of fraud, four burglaries and a grievous bodily harm to hear this morning, and unless you intend to bring in Noam Chomsky as a witness on this one, I’d rather like to find time for some lunch today.”
“I’m sorry, your honour”, said the defence lawyer, hurriedly … “So, Sergeant”, he continued, “it was not more offensive, even, than the mollypants whatever-it-was you mistook it for in the first place. Rather pseudo-intellectual, in fact.”
“Yes sir, perhaps sir, if you like to call it that, sir”, said Hopkins, “but then there was the aforementioned stone-throwing and, well, after he wrote that down, he jumped back a pace, assumed a kind of martial arts stance, said something about Dodge City - along with certain lewd comments I can’t repeat here out of respect for the court, sir - and offered to take us all on, sir. It was at this point that two constables overpowered him, then we brought him down the station and booked him, and he, er, threw up in the cell, sir. That cell had just been cleaned, too, sir”, added the sergeant ruefully (general laughter around the room, and this reporter noticed some surreptitious heaving of official shoulders among the other police officers and clerks present).
“Silence, silence!”, cried the judge. “And enough of this nonsensical nincompoopery – it’s tantamount to bringing my court into disrepute. Stand up there, young fellow my lad. What have you got to say for yourself about all this?”
The defendant stood up and admitted the charge, claiming in his defence that the pressure of his first gainful employment had brought him to such extremes. He acknowledged he had been “tired and emotional” at the time but was now, he said, “fully repentant” of his conduct. He sincerely apologised to those concerned, and with all due shame begged the indulgence of the Court as a first-time offender.
The defendant was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment, suspended due to the absence of any criminal record, and bound over to keep the peace for a year and a day.
Poor Little Translator. Back home after his humiliating appearance he was still having a little difficulty remembering the sequence of events which had made such a mess of what was meant to be a celebration. Gradually he began to piece it all together again …
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