Login or register (free and only takes a few minutes) to participate in this question.
You will also have access to many other tools and opportunities designed for those who have language-related jobs (or are passionate about them). Participation is free and the site has a strict confidentiality policy.
This idiom is used in all kinds of contexts in Norwegian, but here is the context for which I have to find an equivalent translation: "En ammioniakkopløsning binder seg til CO2'en og fungerer slik sett som en nyttig idiot som tar ut co2'en og går så inn i prosessen igjen". The nearest I have come to is "a useful instrument", not as colourful as the Norwegian, but it serves it purpose. Don't we have a more "standard" phrase like the Norwegians do?
Explanation: In the context of chemical reactions, I believe the correct term is "agent". The expression "useful idiot", though a perfect match for "nyttig idiot" (by no means a Norwegian coinage) is totally inappropriate here, as pointed out by other answerers. I would have pointed this out, and advised against using it.
Actually this is a serious research report, but occasionally a little gem like this pops up in the text. I think I'll plump for accuracy here rather than trying to find a style equivalent. Thanks, Richad and all! 4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer
Explanation: I don't think there is an equivalent in English, but if you want to preserve the "color" of the Norwegian, this might work. (I don't think "gullible" works considering the fact that you're talking about a chemical reaction.)
Kathy Saranpa Finland Local time: 20:31 Native speaker of: English PRO pts in pair: 4
Explanation: 'Nyttig idiot' or useful idiot exists, of course, in English, (explained in the link below) but the problem is in the polititical and perjorative overtones that have not come over to Norwegian.
Could you perhaps use 'obedient robot' ?
I'm having qualms about calling it a dog - they're not really that stupid (-:
Explanation: As in 'agent with no own will or intention'. Mind you, to most Norwegians, the use of 'nyttig idiot' in this context looks more contrived than colouful (even the dimmest of idiots are positively Mensa material compared to a splash of ammonia soluution), and you might be better off looking for a more appropriate term.
Per Bergvall Norway Local time: 19:31 Native speaker of: Norwegian PRO pts in pair: 2453