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Shattered meat. That’s the topic of today’s post. But first, the backstory. There’s always a backstory.

Far be it from me to bite the hand of the government that allows me to become as accustomed to living in that lap of luxury as I probably ever will, living freely and working legally in a country that is not my own, living among its people like an equal (some say a better), in a one-bedroom apartment with a kitchen the size of a matchbox and all the bread I can possibly purchase from the corner store.

I love Chile. I live here by choice, despite raised-eyebrow looks and pleading pouts from several skilled family members.

Ahem. So this is the good-cop bad-cop routine, and I’m just about to bust out my bad cop. Don’t worry, it doesn’t look like this:

riot gear

because at least at the moment, I don’t believe that this topic is going to get that violent.

So. The Chilean government recently launched a new website, which you can find at Esto es Chile means “this is Chile,” and the name has a really sweet ring to it, slightly self-effacing (as if you’d expect anything different!), kind of positive.

So. The website is a collection of the usual suspects, pictures of Rapa Nui, discussions of food, that kind of thing. Same packaging, different day. I was perusing the site, to see if I could get a fix on whether it would be useful to me or any of the various people that ask me for advice about Chile. On this I’ll say, sure. It’s what the government wants you to know about Chile. No photos of demonstrations or mention of what some call the civil war in the south of Chile between some Mapuche factions and the (mostly European) settlers there. But that’s to be expected.

I was also expecting clunky, ugly translations of Spanish into English. So I was pleasantly surprised, toodling along with some quirky, but mostly decent translations. (Click on the English button to see the translations, as the site comes up in Spanish.)

Until I got to this page. This is the page where the description of an empanada, that quintessential any-time Chilean food, which this pigeon is thinking about eating in the following picture, appears.

pigeons will eat what they can find

and which I’ve (of course) also written about here, in this post about Pomaire and the mythical empanada.

Here’s the description of an empanada.

Empanada: It’s one of the most typical Chilean dishes and consists of a stuffed bread that is filled with shattered meat, onion, egg, olives and raisin. It can also be prepared with cheese and shellfish. Though the empanada can be consumed in any date of the year, its stellar moment is during the independence celebration in September.

I’ve already kind of given it away, but what is the part of this description that most gives my inner prescriptive grammarian (where grammar also refers to word-level grammar, and in this case, collocations) a terrible case of the no-you-didn’ts?

Shattered meat? Shattered? Interesting. Since I stopped eating meat in a long-distant decade, I thought to myself, perhaps I do not know about the properties of meat. Maybe it is not ground, shredded or deboned, pulled apart, pounded, tenderized, pulverized. Maybe it’s shattered. It’s a funny thing, this shattering, as I’m under the impression that the things that can shatter, like glass, porcelain, your hopes, are things that are resilient to begin with, and react to a strong blow by breaking into tiny, unusable parts.

In order for meat to shatter, I would expect it would have to be frozen solid, and whacked with a mallet, Gallagher style. (Who is Gallagher? Wikipedia will tell you. Considering that my freezer leaves icecream a bit soupy, and can take days to freeze ice, and this is a new refrigerator, I don’t think most empanada-makers have access to such technology. Hitting meat with a mallet in that case would lead to a thwonkslurp, not a crackshatter. So I’m going to call a foul on the translation.

Don’t believe me? I googled “shattered meat.” Got a whopping 272 hits, many of which were for things other than the actual shattering of meat. Then, ever resourceful, I googled “ground meat.” And the googlefairies started singing and the planets aligned rightfully and this post was born. 1,380,000 hits, thankyouverymuch.

I know where this problem was born. It was born in the mind of a translator, who, not sure exactly how to render destrozado (in this case, probably shredded or ground) in English, referred to a giant dictionary like the one I have sitting on my couch next to me most of the time (Gran Diccionario Oxford Español-Inglés, Inglés-Español, one day I’ll get my Amazon shop up and then you, too can plonk down scads of money on books n things to benefit meeee), looked up destrozar and found the entry about emotional health, where a woman was shattered by some bad news.

I don’t even know what the lesson is here. Oh, yes I do. 1. Use a native speaker for the target language 2. Check your work and 3. Send it to me to check it again. Just for kicks. And to save me the energy of writing this long post all about a product I’ll never eat, and whose heyday is right around the corner, all national holiday and fondas (Fiestas Patrias, Sept. 18th).

Don’t miss it. You’ll be shattered.