Who’s in charge?

As the biennale approaches, many documents have to be translated and I’ve found myself doing on the spot translations by text message. I mentioned to a friend that I had finally figured out that if I gave two possible translations – one more or less literal, the other more or less poetic, my interlocutor was usually satisfied with the translation. However, if I only gave one possible translation, then my interlocutor inevitably came back with questions and challenges to my understanding.

My friend nodded and asked, “Haven’t you heard the popular saying, ‘Leaders love multiple choice questions’ (领导最喜欢选择题)?”

I noted that this strategy also works with recalcitrant eaters as in, “You can eat your cornflakes with milk or without milk” because the child thinks she’s in charge even as she eats the cornflakes.

If possible, my friend’s smirk deepened.

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