The Linguist

The Linguist 59,4 - Aug/Sept 2020

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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@Linguist_CIOL AUGUST/SEPTEMBER The Linguist 31 OPINION & COMMENT A would-be interpreter once translated a saying from his home country as 'if a man jumps into the fire, then he has one more jump to make.' Fellow students criticised this English version as 'not succinct/catchy/pithy; sounds stilted'. Maybe the saying is simply untranslatable – the same could actually be said of their own comments (in italics). English does have sayings involving fire, such as 'having irons in the fire' and 'from the frying pan into the fire'. However, it really abounds in those featuring animals and nature, often harking back to the nation's pre-industrial past. These include 'fruitful', 'sheepish', 'catty', 'elephant in the room' and 'cock and bull story'. Many reflect the close British relationship with canines: 'a dog's dinner', 'dog's life', 'dogged', 'to fight like cats and dogs' etc. In most cases, a putative translator would interpret – rather than keep – the original imagery, but this material is not really untranslatable. The same could not be said of Britain's nursery rhymes, such as 'Hey Diddle Diddle', with their reliance on rhyme, metre and rhythm, and their lack of logic. Even so, Edward Lear's nonsense poems have been translated, as has Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Winnie-the-Pooh exists not just in Russian, as Винни- Пух, but in many languages, including Latin. Some terms are ephemeral, which may be a greater challenge for a translator. Expressions such as 'corbynista' and 'Brexiteer' may be consigned to history books. The last few years have produced a flowering of neologisms, including 'man flu', 'bucket list', 'peng' and 'fatberg', and more recently 'social distancing' and 'lockdown'. Book titles can be equally challenging. The title of Elena Ferrante's La vita bugiarda degli adulti has sadly been translated literally as The Lying Life of Adults. Will Robert Harris's The Second Sleep fare any better? When it comes to foreign borrowings, some (e.g. Schadenfreude) have presumably been embraced due to their untranslatability, though others do have an English equivalent (eg. 'peeping Tom' for voyeur). Italian musical terms have become standard internationally. I once saw a group of Australians watching Monty Python's The Life of Brian in a French cinema. They were convulsed with laughter as Jesus and others jigged about on crucifixes to the strains of 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' (subtitled). They were the only ones laughing as the French spectators sat stony faced. Were they just humourless – or were the lyrics, in fact, untranslatable? Lorna Sandler FCIL 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Across 1 African nation whose first language is of the Cushitic family. (7) 5 * M. Courageux (France). (5) 8 Probably the first language of Jesus. (7) 9 In US slang, a drugs trafficker. (5) 10 Odysseus lands on an island where the inhabitants eat this fruit. (5) 11 * Menina Marota (Portuguese). (7) 12 How an Andalusian refers to their country. (6) 14 * Unser Herr Griesgram (German). (6) 17 How a resident of Ankara refers to their country. (7) 19 Table in ancient Rome where only the most intelligent could sit. (5) 22 Belief. (5) 23 Appointed for life. (7) 24 * Little Miss Ditzy (US). (5) 25 Fourteen popes have borne this name. (7) Down 1 * Don Pequeño (Spanish). (5) 2 Deliberate. (5) 3 The French Connection? (7) 4 Grave or acute? (6) 5 A large family of languages spoken throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. (5) 6 Patriarch of monotheistic religions, from Hebrew 'father of the multitude'. (7) 7 The derivation of a general name from that of a famous person. (7) 12 Lured. (7) 13 * M. Parfait (French). (7) 15 Such languages derived from Vulgar Latin. (7) 16 Welsh, Breton, Irish and Scottish Gaelic are extant languages of this family. (6) 18 One element of the English name for Côte d'Ivoire. (5) 20 How someone from Stavanger refers to their country. (5) 21 A thorough check, one hears in ancient Rome. (5) Clues marked * ask for the British English surname of the Mr Men or Little Miss character Crossword no.26 Solution opposite On untranslatability

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