German artist Katharina Fritsch ruffled more than a few feathers when she created her installation for the famous “Fourth Plinth” in Trafalgar Square, London. Situated directly opposite a statue commemorating Admiral Horatio Nelson, whose famous victory over Emperor Napoleon of France (and at some point most of Europe), the fourth plinth has become a showcase for works of art, many controversial. In this case, however, the main talking point is the fact that the cockerel is an unofficial symbol of France, the nation which was trying to conquer Britain at the time of Waterloo. The artist has commented that she was not aware of this, although she says she finds it amusing.
Presumably she was also unaware that the statue’s original name of Hahn, translates into English as “Cock” which has colourful overtones in UK English – a fact not lost on London’s colourful Mayor, Boris Johnson.
While London, like Australia, has a tradition of tolerance and humour and it is reasonable to assume that someone, somewhere would have prevented the installation of anything culturally offensive, it’s important to be aware of differences between countries and languages. An easy way of doing this is to employ the services of a professional German NAATI translator.