mardi 1 janvier 2008

Daniel Jones: many-sided man of mystery...or Le Médecin Imaginaire: Keeping up with the Joneses....

NOTE: This was written in January 2008. The information contained it was accurate at the time. The picture of the cheesily grinning sawbones in the labcoat was taken from Dr Jones’s then current page. He has since removed it. He has also changed his claimed PhD from Paris III to a DEA, but retains the claim to have an unspecified PhD in translation. This blog will be updated when I get time.

I should add that Daniel Alun Jones is not to be confused with David Alun Jones, a legitimate translator in Edinburgh.

If Harold W. Vadney III is the most pernicious and unmitigatedly evil fraud I have encountered in the translation business, Dr Daniel Jones is perhaps the weirdest.

Dr Daniel Jones the wannabe translator

I first encountered the self-styled doctor on the terminology forum, KudoZ. Someone had asked about the French word potasse. This is a rather unscientific and ambiguous word, but it just so happens that the English word “potash” is ambiguous in the same way; so there is no reason to look any further.

But our friend Jones, never shy of displaying his ignorance, suggested “potassium permanganate”. This is, of course, completely stupid. Not only is potassium permanganate not called potasse in French, but even if it were, there is nothing to suggest that it was this particular potassium compound that the original author intended. There is no justification, even if his suggestion were plausible, for putting such a huge gloss when an exact translation is available. By way of justifying his monstrous suggestion, Dr Jones pasted in, without acknowledging the source, a passage from the CNRS about the use of pot. permanganate, in place of chlorine, to kill bugs in drinking water. This was totally irrelevant, as the passage from which the question came was about cleaning the filter column.

Two people disagreed with Dr Jones’s answer. The first was a (genuine) PhD chemist from Cambridge. She got addressed as “dear” and told “we’re not in elementary school”. I was the second, and his response to me included the words “you've understood nothing of the CNRS reference: do you understand any French ?”. (Note in passing the use of French punctuation: this from someone who claims English as a native language!) Of course I was indignant, and wanted to check out who this alleged “doctor” was whose stupidity was matched only by his impudence.

Looking at his profile, I soon realized that I was dealing with a major imposter. He claimed at the time to be a “Docteur en médecine et PhD en linguistique de l'Université de Paris III Sorbonne”. The latter claim was easily checked; the library in Paris III has no doctoral dissertation by a Daniel Jones. (Of course, there is no end of books by the well-known phonetician Daniel Jones, but he died in 1967.) So obviously, he lied about the PhD. He gives an address in Le Pré Saint Gervais, which I will call Address A.

If Jones’s answers on the terminology forum KudoZ put him in a bad light, his questions do nothing to redeem him. He once asked, for example, about the English expression “CI”, in the following context:

The 95% CI was based on the normal approximation of difference in proportions and a two–sided test with p<0.05 was taken as significant.

Anyone with any basic training in any scientific discipline, even a soft option like medicine, would be familiar with the term “confidence interval”, and recognize it immediately in the context, with related terms like “normal approximation”, “two-sided test” “p<0.05” and “significant”. The same goes for anyone with even a modicum of training and/or experience in technical or scientific translation. Hell, I was taught that stuff in high school! Having recognised CI as “confidence interval” (and I think anyone with a scientific background would pick it even given a blank space rather than the abbreviation), even if you don’t know the French term, you couldn’t help but pick intervalle de confiance as a first guess, and Google would do the rest.

 Prof. Daniel Jones the English teacher

This is where it gets interesting. I communicated with a colleague, who actually is a physician with a PhD, and she sent me some links she had found. One was to an English teacher called Daniel Jones, who shares not only a name but also a mobile phone number with Dr Jones the translator. This Daniel Jones is said to have been born on 30 October 1968 and to have an address in Paris 14. (Call it Address B.) One assumes that, sharing the same mobile phone, the two Joneses we have met so far must be the same fellow. Dr Jones the translator says his office is in Paris; so there is no need to be too alarmed about the two addresses.

There is, however, the slight problem of Dr Jones’s age. He looks a bit older than 39 in the picture on his profile. However, not only does his profile at give the date of birth in 1968, but there is another profile for an English teacher called Daniel Jones at that gives his age as 39. The profile also lists his “Nombre année [sic] d’expérience” as 20, and his “Nombre de jours d'animation par an d'expérience” as 200 (it said the same thing in 2006). That’s well and truly full-time for a teacher. So he’s been teaching full-time since 1986, when he was 18, and still found time to put in 9 years of full-time study for his doctorat en médecine and nominally 8 more years for his “PhD” in linguistics or, as it now appears, “LEA option Traduction”. There could be very little cross-crediting between the two domains, but let’s be generous and allow two years. So that’s 20 years of full-time teaching, 9 years studying medicine and say 6 years studying translation or linguistics (which have about as much connection as hydrodynamics and plumbing, but let that pass). So he must have started one of these activities by the age of 4. Quel prodige !!

[PS Since writing the paragraph above, I have heard from a colleague (the same one I mentioned above) that Jones claims to studied medicine in the US. So that puts an entirely different complexion on things! The US MD degree is a four-year postgraduate course. So, allowing 8 years for his “PhD”, 4 years for his US MD, and 20 years’ claimed full-time teaching experience, that makes 32 years out of the 39 he has graced this planet with his presence. So he must have started his academic-cum-professional career at the age of 7. Now that’s much more plausible...isn’t it?]

Oh, and yes, our friend does actually refer to himself (in the third person) as le professeur JONES. For those who don’t know French (or who aren’t familiar with the finer details), I add that, while professeur on its own just means “teacher”, prefixed to a person’s name like that, if refers to a university professor (in the US context, a “full” professor).

 Dr Daniel Jones the Psychotherapist

However, as if that weren’t enough, there is third Daniel Jones, Daniel Jones the psychotherapist. This Daniel Jones also shares a mobile phone number with Dr Jones the translator (not the same as the teacher’s phone number—the translator apparently carries two mobiles in his lab-coat), and also shares his claim to a medical degree. Not only that, he gives the same address (Address A) in Le Pré Saint Gervais as our friend the translator.

Confused? I am! Anyway, don’t relax just yet, because there is another side to this mystery: the Société Internationale de Psychanalyse. This has as its president one Daniel Alun Jones, and the same address (Address B) as Daniel Jones the English teacher! According to the entry for it, it was founded in 1984. This is bizarre. I am still trying to work out whether the SIP is genuine or not. However, most Google hits to Société Internationale de Psychanalyse relate to a body founded by Freud in 1910 or so. The Société Psychanalytique de Paris is often listed as its French branch, although the SPP itself claims affiliation to the Association Psychanalytique Internationale. I suspect this may just be a case of official and unofficial French translations of the (presumably German) original name.

More bizarrely, there is a book advertised for sale on Amazon (single copy, second-hand), by a Daniel Alun Jones, called Psychopathology and Creativity; A Study of Anthony Storr's “The Dynamics of Creation”, apparently published, ring-bound, by the “University [sic] De La Sorbonne Nouvelle (1987)”. Is this our same Dr Jones the two-bit translator and language teacher? He would have been 19 when the book came out, but, given his other precocious achievements, this would hardly be surprising. I wonder, however, why I can find no other reference to this book or to its author as a psychoanalyst, other than as noted above (i.e. dodgy and apparently connected with our friend the charlatan translator). I wonder, too, why the book does not appear to have an ISBN, and why, if it was published by Paris III (where our friend got his imaginary doctorate), it’s not even in their library catalogue....

Daniel Jones the conference interpreter

Another gem of a discovery from my colleague the real physician-PhD is that, in his entry in the database of the SFT (Société Française des Traducteurs), Jones (assuming it’s the same one, as the phone number would suggest) describes himself as a conference interpreter, with the language combination English-English. This must be one of the easier combinations, even for a conference interpreter. I suppose everybody has to be good for something.

 Prof. Dr Daniel Jones the fraud?

So there you have it. Jones the translator, Jones the English teacher, Jones the shrink, Jones the monolingual conference interpreter. All, despite the many hairstyles, apparently the same person, who must have lived a very busy life to accomplish so much in under 40 years.

Either that or he’s just another fraud.