Tuesday 31 March 2009

a heavenly haven

Peter Roach wrote
I wonder if you noticed the interview on TV yesterday on Channel 4 News with Christine LaGarde, French Finance Minister. My wife and I were marvelling at her excellent English (including her pronunciation) but wondering why she kept referring to "tax heavens" instead of "tax havens". We then remembered that the French for this is "paradis fiscal". I hope somebody has put her right now.
A lovely example, which segues neatly from yesterday’s post!
Mme LaGarde’s English is indeed much too good for her to confuse (as in haven) with e (as in heaven). But with heaven being a near-synonym of paradise, one can understand the confusion.
It suggests that she has learnt the English expression tax haven by hearing it used in context, rather than by encountering it in the course of reading.
Strangely enough, I was discussing this topic just a few days ago (27 March) in my other blog. English haven has moved away from its historical meaning ‘harbour’ to its current meaning, a refuge.
Where English speaks of a tax haven for those reluctant to pay taxes in their home country, French, German and Spanish speak of a paradise (paradis fiscal, Steuerparadies, paraíso fiscal).
But the Slavonic languages go a different route: in Russian they call it an оффшорная зона (ʌfˈʃoɾnəjə ˈzonə, offshore zone), and in Polish terytoria offshore. The Japanese follow English with タックス・ヘイヴン (takkusu heivn).
At least, that’s how the various Wikipedia articles are entitled in the respective languages.


  1. The two words are memorably combined in GM Hopkins' poem Heaven-haven (a nun takes the veil):

    I HAVE desired to go
    Where springs not fail,
    To fields where flies no sharp and sided hail
    And a few lilies blow.

  2. Mi faris la saman eraron ĝis kiam mi legis vian alian blogon!
    Mi estis plurfoje leginta tiun esprimon en anglalingvaj ĵurnaloj, sed neniam rimarkis ke temis pri "haven"; mi ĉiam instinkte pensis pri "heaven".

  3. You DO hear "raj podatkowy" ('tax paradise') a lot in Polish:


    I was actually surprised to see "terytoria offshore"as the main entry on Wikipedia -- must be some kind of technical jargon.

    "Raj podatkowy" wins 16,400 to 109 on Google, even including the singular "terytorium offshore".


  4. A (probably more common) synonym for German Steuerparadies would be Steueroase. People are becoming increasingly familiar with this kind of oasis these days ...

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  7. I haven't heard Mme Lagarde's English but it seems to me that heaven and haven are probably pretty close to a French speaker of English. I suppose in order to be sure she said "tax heaven" we need to know whether she would write that.

  8. Or she might only ever have encountered haven in written form (it's not exactly a common word except for idioms like safe haven and tax haven) and tried to pronounce the first vowel æ as in have. Getting æ right seems to be awfully hard for French natives, in general.

  9. In Spanish we say "Paraíso Fiscal" (Tax Heaven). I once read that it was a mistake in translation, haven for heaven. But I also read that it may have been done on purpose in order to make it sound nicer since Haven translation into Spanish sounds too criminal.


  10. A little confusion can happen specially if she is not native speaking, I wouldn't make a big deal out of it, yes she speaks great English, but that doesn't make her perfect.

  11. Source: Wikipedia

    "Tax heaven":

    Basque: paradisu fiskal
    Catalan: paradís fiscal
    Czech: daňový ráj
    Dutch: belastingparadijs
    Esperanto: impostparadizo
    Finnish: veroparatiisi
    French: paradis fiscal
    Galician: paraíso fiscal
    Hungarian: adóparadicsom
    Italian: paradiso fiscale
    Macedonian: даночен рај
    Norwegian: skatteparadis
    Polish: raj podatkowy
    Portuguese: paraíso fiscal
    Spanish: paraíso fiscal
    Turkish: vergi cenneti

    "Tax haven"

    Chinese: 避稅港
    Corean: 조세 피난처
    English: Tax haven
    Hebrew: מקלט מס
    Icelandic: skattaskjól
    Japanese: タックス・ヘイヴン
    Welsh: hafan treth

    "Offshore zone":

    Armenian: օֆշորային գոտի
    Belarusian: афшорная зона
    Kazakh: оффшорлық аимақтар
    Russian: офшорная зона
    Ukrainian: офшорна зона

    "Tax oasis":

    German: Steueroase
    Slovenian: davčna oaza

    1. "Tax heaven":

      German: Steuerparadies
      Greek: φορολογικός παράδεισος

    2. "Tax haven":

      Arabic: ملاذ ضريبي
      Danish: skattely
      Farsi پناهگاه مالیاتی


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