At the height of the cold war, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech in which he uttered a phrase that interpreted from Russian as "we will bury you." It was taken as chilling threat to bury the U.S. with a nuclear attack and escalated the tension between the U.S. and Russia. However, the translation was a bit too literal. The sense of the Russian phrase was more that "we will live to see you buried" or "we will outlast you." Still not exactly friendly, but not quite so threatening.I find that very interesting, because in the 50+ years I've heard the story of Khruschev's speech, I've never heard this interpretation of it. I am however aware that a similar thing may have happened during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech to the United Nations several years ago:
..this was the man who, in 2005, generated wide outrage in the West for suggesting that Israel should be "wiped from the map." But even that case said as much about our limited understanding of him and his context as it did about Ahmadinejad himself. The expression "wipe from the map" means "destroy" in English but not in Farsi. In Farsi, it means not that Israel should be eliminated but that the existing political borders should literally be wiped from a literal map and replaced with those of historic Palestine. That's still not something likely to win him cheers in U.S. policy circles, but the distinction, which has been largely lost from the West's understanding of the Iranian president, is important.In 2008 Hillary Clinton was less vague in her pronouncement:
Yesterday, as the BBC reports, she "was asked how she would respond if Iran launched a nuclear attack on Israel. She replied that: "If I'm the president, we will attack Iran... we would be able to totally obliterate them."And this from President Theodore Roosevelt speaking of Cuba:
"I am so angry with Cuba that I would like to wipe its people off the face of the earth."Khruschev quote from Mental Floss, via Neatorama.