Greta Says Expression's Meaning Was Lost in Translation

Climate activist apologizes for 'against the wall' line
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 15, 2019 9:44 AM CST
Thunberg Apologizes for 'Against the Wall' Line
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg listens to speeches at the UN climate conference in Madrid last week.   (AP Photo/Paul White)

Greta Thunberg said, in issuing an apology, that she didn't intend to sound threatening when she called for holding leaders accountable by saying to "put them against the wall." Some people saw that as suggesting violence against those who don't act on climate change, CBS reports. The 16-year-old blamed her own translation. The Swedish expression means to hold someone accountable, she said. In English, it can refer to lining up the condemned for a firing squad. "That's what happens when you improvise speeches in a second language," she tweeted Saturday about her comments the day before at a rally in Italy. "But of course I apologize if anyone misunderstood this."

The Swedish phrase also can be understood to refer to a person encountering difficult questions or situations, per Newsweek. The climate activist added that she, like everyone in her movement, opposes violence. (Michelle Obama offered encouragement to Thunberg last week.)

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