The offending word was misery. The headlines were "Brits face Spain holiday misery after double bomb attack," by The Times. The BBC chose "disrupt. "Spanish bomb disrupts UK holidays".

It took 24 hours for The Times to change the wording even after their Twitter account was flooded with messages from offended Spaniards. But what if all those Spaniards were lost in translation?


Let's start from the beginning. The Basque terrorist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna in Euskera, the language spoken in the Basque Country; in English, it means Basque Homeland and Freedom) wanted to celebrate its 50th anniversary of political vengeance through violence with more violence. The group has been vindicating the independence of the Basque Country, a region in Northern Spain, through violence, assassinations and bombings that long ago targeted public places and later turned into specific attacks against politicians, members of the military and the civilian police. Like this week.

On Wednesday night, ETA attempted a massacre in Burgos with a blast that injured almost 50. The terrorists left a van packed with explosives next to a building for military families. We'll never know if they were looking for deadly results. But we know they were seeking the publicity they need on this anniversary: 24 hours later they killed two policemen by triggering a bomb stuck to their car. This time it was in Mallorca. It's the ninth attack this year, with three victims.

For the first time, internet users in Spain turned to Twitter to use the platform and protest against ETA and terrorism. For the first time, "ETAno" (no to ETA) was among the popular "trending topics," or most-used words on Twitter around the world. What had at first seemed like a triumph for Spaniards against the violent soon became their quest for international attention over an issue of words, translations and international politics.

Few people in Spain speak English. But some understand it even if they are not fluent enough to have a conversation with an English speaker. Those were the sensitive ones yesterday. During Spain’s years of ETA terrorism, we have seen international media speak about ETA as a separatist group. A separatist group that kills innocent people. A separatist group that speaks the language of bombs, guns and death. A terrorist group.

Thursday was the day Spanish tweeters flooded foreign media and news agencies' accounts with requests to identify ETA as a terrorist group, not separatists.

And then came the Times and the BBC. And misery. Everyone forgot about the language of ETA and started protesting against the offensive idea of finding misery in Spain. Really? The same Brits who love to vacation on our islands talking about misery in Spain? The same Brits who come to Spain to go to the doctor every year? The same Brits who have invaded our coasts with their restaurants? The same ones that give us a menu in English so we won’t know what to eat in our own country?

The British outlets had a point. One million Brits travel to Spain every year. 700,000 of them have moved there permanently. They live on the coast, the islands; they have their restaurants, their doctors. Nice weather for the old and aching, nice parties for the young. Some of them were flying to Mallorca on Thursday, or trying to get back home after the holidays, when Spanish authorities decided to close the airport and the port, and set up extensive traffic and road controls—to stop the terrorists from leaving the island—that drove everyone crazy. For the Brits, Spain was "overreacting"; for the Spaniards, two people had died and there were no holidays in sight.

Twitter moves so fast that it makes you forget the news you just tweeted. The Times was talking about travelers' misery hours after it had announced the two victims: something the Spanish tweeters had already forgotten. They also forgot that the last time they were trapped in one of our lovely airports they also felt miserable. And, more important, they forgot that two hours after the last bombings in Yakarta or Mumbai, we were also talking about the Spaniards affected by them. The number of deaths also fell to the very last line on our stories. And they forgot the dictionary before tweeting any offense. Misery is not as miserable in English as it sounds in Spanish.

Maybe the Brits were not having such a bad time.