Robin Williams’ Support for Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research a Harbinger of Parkinson’s Diagnosis

Yes, we know the headline is sensationalistic and even irreverent — but we hope Robin Williams would have appreciated the joke.

In the early evening of August 14, 2014, Michael J. Fox, the actor and Parkinson’s Disease educator and activist, sent the following tweet:

MJF tweet

The tweet was duly “translated” and reported in Italy by three of the largest news outlets in the country: ANSA (the country’s leading wire service), (Italy’s first or second largest daily newspaper, depending upon whose readership statistics you believe), and TGCOM24 (Mediaset’s 24-hour all-news TV channel).

And all of them contained exactly the same glaring error. (Though it isn’t clear who started it, our money is on ANSA.)


Why is this a bona fide groaner? Because whichever halfwit translated the original Tweet either thought that “predate” meant “predict” or else believed that the Italian verb for “predate” was “predire” (which actually means to foretell or prophesy). 

In any case, what the translated Tweet winds up saying is that William’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease was foreshadowed or predicted by, or was foreseeable from, his involvement in the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which Williams supported. In other words, William’s work with Fox’s PD Foundation was a presentiment of his diagnosis. Not exactly what Fox is saying. No, let’s amend that. It’s precisely the opposite of what Fox was saying.

As Diana Barrie (Maggie Smith) tells Sidney Cochran (Michael Caine) in the 1978 Neil Simon comedy, California Suite: “That’s not funny, Sidney. That’s bizarre!”

Then there are the small things. It isn’t called “Parkinson Disease”; it’s “Parkinson’s Disease (though Italians love to drop the “s” off the end of English words). And Fox’s “pretty sure” became, in Italian, “I’m certain.”

As in, I’m certain there was someone better qualified to handle this simple translation.


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