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Hoy me encontré con una cita que decía:

To quote the great David Mitchell "I think you mean uninterested. All good policemen are disinterested."

Uninterested puede traducirse como "desinteresado" o "falto de interés". Disinterested puede traducirse también como "desinteresado" y Wordreference incluso ofrece indiferente y apático.

En español, desinterés tiene los dos significados de "carente de interés" y "carente de la búsqueda de provecho propio":

  1. m. Falta de interés por algo.

  2. m. Desprendimiento de todo provecho personal, próximo o remoto.

Parece ser que hay mucha controversia sobre el uso correcto de ambos términos en inglés. Como sugiere este sitio:

[D]isinterested should never be used to mean ‘not interested’ (i.e. it is not a synonym for uninterested) but only to mean ‘impartial‘

Si entendemos que la frase original viene a significar:

Entiendo que quiso decir "carente de atención, ganas o interés". Todos los buenos policías son altruistas, sin segundas intenciones.

¿Cuáles serían los términos correctos en español para traducir uniterested y disinterested en esa frase?

4 Answers 4

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I needed some context for the quote, as it wasn't immediately obvious whether this person Mitchell was talking about an uninterested policeman. It turns out he was. As far as I can tell from my googling efforts, Mitchell appeared on some television program I never heard of, called "Would I Lie to You?" I found a more complete quote:

Brydon [the host, I think] at one point described Mitchell's demeanour as 'like a disinterested policeman'.

Mitchell: Uninterested, surely. All good policemen should be disinterested. (Brydon is confused.) 'Disinterested' means 'impartial'.

So here's how I would translate the (hopefully more accurate and complete) Mitchell quote:

Creo que más bien Ud. quería decir que no me veo muy interesado, es decir, que no se me nota ninguna curiosidad por el asunto. Todo buen policía debe mantenerse desinteresado. "Desinteresado" quiere decir "imparcial."

Here are some examples from other contexts:

El juez no se veía muy interesado en el caso. Durante las declaraciones preliminares bostezó varias veces.

Pero la esposa del juez Martínez es prima hermana del acusado. La prensa va a decir que Martínez no está desinteresado.

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I would consider playing with the difference between ser and estar:

Querrá decir que estaba desinteresado. Un buen policía siempre es desinteresado.

I've also made "es" bold for clarity's sake, but bear in mind that in actual delivery, it wouldn't be emphasized as much as the "estaba".

This difference between "ser desinteresado" (impartial, altruistic) and "estar desinteresado" (bored, not paying attention) is quite general, and applies in many more contexts than this particular sentence.

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  • Brillante forma de resolver el problema thinking out of the box
    – Diego
    Mar 31, 2017 at 0:36
  • I think I also covered this.
    – Lambie
    Sep 18, 2022 at 15:58
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    @Lambie: No you didn't. You did not make any mention whatsoever to the difference between "ser interesado" and "estar interesado". And you're five year late.
    – Wences
    Sep 19, 2022 at 23:45
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The problem here is that the English language shot itself in the foot with two words that in one definition are synonyms and in the other are not

According to Merriam-Webster (my go to English dictionary) David Mitchell is in some sense wrong since Disinterested has both meanings of not interested and also not selfish, unbiased

Definition of disinterested

1
a : not having the mind or feelings engaged
b : no longer interested
husband and wife become disinterested in each other — T. I. Rubin

2 : free from selfish motive or interest : unbiased
a disinterested decision

but uninterested only means not interested

In Spanish we don't have "uninteresado" and we only have "desinteresado" that also has both meanings.

Fue una propuesta desinteresada (libre de propósitos egoístas)
El se muestra desinteresado por el juego (no está interesado en el juego)

All this makes things more confusing since the exact translation for both uninterested and disinterested would be desinteresado

The way to make it clear would be by using the definitions.

uninterested = not interested = sin interés
disinterested = (2)unbiased = imparcial

"I think you mean uninterested. All good policemen are disinterested."
"Creo que quiso decir sin interés. Todos los buenos policías deben ser imparciales"

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  • I am not interested in this book is not sin interés. That would be: I have no interest in this book. Este libro es sin interés para mi. To not be interested in something is usually: no interesar mas or desinteresar.
    – Lambie
    Sep 13, 2022 at 21:48
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    @Lambie: *"Este libro es sin interés" is just broken Spanish. "To not be intereseted" is not any of the two translations you have suggested. It is "no estar interesado". "No interesar más" would be "doesn't interest me anymore", while "desinteresar" is a made up word. "Desinteresarse", instead, would be "to lose interest"
    – Wences
    Sep 19, 2022 at 23:51
  • @Wences No, it is not broken Spanish. It means the book has no intrinsic value. And what you say, I repeat, is mistaken: "uninterested = not interested = sin interés" That is not accurate. I am not interested in this book. No estoy interesado en este libro. Este libro no me interesa.
    – Lambie
    Sep 20, 2022 at 15:33
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    @Lambie: no. "Este libro es sin interés" is broken Spanish. The right way of saying that is "Este libro no tiene/ofrece/reviste (ningún/el menor/nada de) interés". And yes, uninterested does mean "sin interés" but in a different sense than what you seem to have construed it to: to be uninterested is "sin interés" in the sense of "no tengo interés en el caso, soy por lo tanto, una persona sin interés en el caso".
    – Wences
    Sep 21, 2022 at 16:46
  • to be uninterested in something is not sin interés. It's as you just wrote: no tener interés en algo.
    – Lambie
    Sep 21, 2022 at 17:30
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Collins Dictionary:

disinterested

ADJECTIVE

  1. (= impartial) desinteresado ⧫ imparcial [disinterested parties: partes desinteresadas]
  2. (= uninterested) indiferente [to be uninterested in: ser indiferente a algo]

Spanish translation of 'uninterested' Word Frequency
uninterested

ADJECTIVE (= indifferent) indiferente ⧫ desinteresado
I am quite uninterested in what he thinks.
Me es igual or indiferente lo que piensa.

to be uninterested in a subject.
no tener interés en un tema Copyright © by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

The point of all this:

In English, you can say I am interested or not interested in something. That idea in Spanish is: ser indiferente a x OR no me interesa x.

However, to become uninterested in something would be: Se desinteresó del problema. OR: Ya no le interesa el problema.

In English, we normally do not say: He became disinterested in the problem. You can say it but people don't say it usually. However, in Spanish, they do use desinteresar like that.

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