Published March 06, 2009
Note to self: When trying to improve ties with a former Cold War-era foe, check a dictionary.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton learned that lesson the hard way Friday when she presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift bearing an incorrect translation -- one that implied hostility, rather than peacemaking.
Clinton presented Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button, which said "Reset" in English and "Peregruzka" in Russian. The problem was, "peregruzka" doesn't mean reset. It means overcharged, or overloaded.
And Lavrov called her out on it.
"We worked hard to get the right Russian word. Do you think we got it?" Clinton asked Lavrov.
"You got it wrong," Lavrov said. "This says 'peregruzka,' which means overcharged."
The two top diplomats, who met in Geneva, laughed and Clinton explained: "We won't let you do that to us, I promise."
Clinton said earlier she was presenting the gift because it "represents what President Obama and Vice President Biden and I have been saying and that is, 'We want to reset our relationship.' And so we will do it together."
Clinton adviser Philippe Reines said the typo would be fixed, noting that the correct translation for "reset" is only a couple letters off.
"Since we're all learning a little Russian today, Opechatka is Russian for typo. So the 'Opechatka' is being fixed, the gift will correctly read 'Perezagruzka,'" he said.