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Four-letter words
Thread poster: xxxIanW
xxxIanW
Local time: 20:40
German to English
+ ...
Jul 18, 2003

(I suppose this is a toss-up between "Linguistics" and "The lighter side of translation" - there didn't seem to be any forum in-between. And I am aware that the use of profanities is not permitted by the Rules of Etiquette, but I am asking an important question here, not having a go at someone, so I hope this is OK. If not, my apologies.)

Thanks to Amanda Grey, those of us on the French-English KudoZ pair had enormous Friday afternoon fun trying to determine the suitable level of swearing in the translation of a French play peppered with the word "putain" and suchlike
(http://www.proz.com/kudoz/482307).

I was interested to note that most of my colleagues wrote the word "fuck" as "f**k", although this may well be due to the Rules of Etiquette. The question which I then asked myself was this: when using four-letter words in translations, are we translators supposed to "cover up" or not.

In English-speaking publications, I have seen everything from brutal frankness to "s**t" for "shit", which is rather quaint. I'm not a lover of obscene language by any means, but I do believe that putting two asterisks instead of the "u" and "c" simply draws attention to the naughty word.

Lily-livered translator that I am, I have always used asterisks to avoid controversy, but I'd be interested to hear how everyone else approaches it.


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:40
Dutch to English
+ ...
Using naughty language in translations Jul 18, 2003

I think it all depends on what you are translating. I was translating a musical a few months ago and it was rather raunchy. No way could I have used asterisks! Besides, it was a dialogue. The actors really had to say the words.

I do believe that you have to be careful but I do not think it is our mandate to cover up. We are not the authors and therefore not responsible for hurting people's feelings. I do believe, however, that we have a right to refuse a job on moral grounds (i.e. we do not like the subject (racist, for example) or the use of language (swear words, for example)).

The persons who will be reading/using the translation should be taken into consideration. If you are translating documents for a government agency, for example, you should be politically correct in my view (for example, use lone parent and not single parent; etc.). However, if your source is using expletives, then your translation should too since they are probably trying to make a point.

Interesting subject. I hope many respond.


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Empty Whiskey Glass
Local time: 21:40
Bulgarian
+ ...
Can't as an F-word Jul 18, 2003

Quote: "I was interested to note that most of my colleagues wrote the word "fuck" as "f**k", although this may well be due to the Rules of Etiquette."

F-words are integral part of the language, you may like them or you may not. However, this does not make them less "wordy", so to say. If one says "fuck" instead of "f**k" then, what one means is simply "fuck", and not "f**k". This, or at least I think so, is part of the style, be it vulgar or not.

Quote: "The question which I then asked myself was this: when using four-letter words in translations, are we translators supposed to "cover up" or not."

If the text is an official one, then it will not contain any f-words. Otherwise, if it is a vulgar one, then I don't see why we should cover them up. The tough issue is in between

Slainte!


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Amanda Grey  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:40
French to English
Hitting the right register Jul 18, 2003

Yes, it\'s me, the one responsible for starting this discussion, and a very interesting one it is too.

For me the problem is not whether we should cover up bad language or couch it in more politically-correct terms. It is our duty as translators to faithfully represent the author\'s ideas in our native (I hope) language. Swear words are always delicate, even for a native speaker, who cannot always be sure that the right \'register\' has been hit.

As a teacher of English (among other things) I always warn my students not to try to \"translate\" swear words, as it takes a highly proficient speaker to \"feel\" how suitable a word is in a given context.

As a translator, who doesn\'t use the F word (or only in extreme pain), I was slightly heistant to use it in my translation, although it seemed, in the context, to best convey the extreme emotion of the moment.

I don\'t think we should play the role of \"editor\", and edit-out language we wouldn\'t ourselves feel comfortable with. I have also had this dilemma as an interpreter, when one man referred to his contact across the table as a \"sale con\". I paraphrased. Maybe I should have given a faithful translation and relied on the table to keep them apart However, I am well aware that it is often the messenger who takes the rap...


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Empty Whiskey Glass
Local time: 21:40
Bulgarian
+ ...
Translation of swear words Jul 18, 2003

Amanda Grey wrote:

For me the problem is not whether we should cover up bad language or couch it in more politically-correct terms. It is our duty as translators to faithfully represent the author's ideas in our native (I hope) language. Swear words are always delicate, even for a native speaker, who cannot always be sure that the right 'register' has been hit.

As a teacher of English (among other things) I always warn my students not to try to "translate" swear words, as it takes a highly proficient speaker to "feel" how suitable a word is in a given context.



Not only it is the context but also the cultural specificity of the community. That is, different language communities consider different concepts as offensive. In this sence, translation of swear words is impossible. The target audience must respond in an adequate (not necessarily similar) way. Therefore, walking on a very thin ice, a translator doing that (God help him) must be well aware of the cultural specifics of both communities and, if I may use this word, to adapt the given swear word to the "swear" requirements of the target audience.

In Bulgarian, like in all languages, certain swearings and cursings stand out as being most offensive. They, however, do not happen to be that offensive, if they are at all, in other languages.

This is a very interesting issue. Some time ago a friend of mine and I attepmted to write a comparative study on the subject but received no approval on behalf of the Department management of the Uni we were attending. Still, I'm waiting my time

Slainte!


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Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
German to Italian
+ ...
thanks Amanda Jul 19, 2003

Amanda Grey wrote:

It is our duty as translators to faithfully represent the author's ideas in our native (I hope) language.


I don't think we should play the role of "editor", and edit-out language we wouldn't ourselves feel comfortable with.


100% right in my opinion. It's not my "fault" if the original text is vulgar, offensive etc. Editors, not tranlators, should decide how explicit the translation can be.


ps: slainte???

[Edited at 2003-07-19 15:21]


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xxxIanW
Local time: 20:40
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sláinte Jul 19, 2003

(To answer the above question, "Sláinte" is Irish for "health", or "cheers" when having a drink. I think Svetozar meant it in the sense of "All the best", which isn't strictly correct, but still impressive!)

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Lorenzo Lilli  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
German to Italian
+ ...
ok Jul 19, 2003

Ian Winick wrote:

(To answer the above question, "Sláinte" is Irish for "health", or "cheers" when having a drink. I think Svetozar meant it in the sense of "All the best", which isn't strictly correct, but still impressive!)


I thought it was Bulgarian


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Empty Whiskey Glass
Local time: 21:40
Bulgarian
+ ...
Slainte! Jul 20, 2003

Ian Winick wrote:

(To answer the above question, "Slainte" is Irish for "health", or "cheers" when having a drink. I think Svetozar meant it in the sense of "All the best", which isn't strictly correct, but still impressive!)


LOL!
It's "Cheers!" that I mean


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Katherine Zei  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 13:40
Italian to English
+ ...
Bellissimo! Jul 21, 2003

Lorenzo Lilli wrote:

I thought it was Bulgarian


indeed!

As for the thread: I think you should translate the swear words to the best of your ability (sometimes it's quite difficult to find the right words to convey the level of obscenity and the expression), and avoid the asterisks--they only make you look prissy and draw unwarranted attention.

CAVEAT: It all depends on your audience.

Prosit!


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xxxIanW
Local time: 20:40
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Swear words and foreigners Jul 21, 2003

Yes, it's said that God speaks every language except Irish (the grammar is a real bitch).

Anyway, thanks for all the suggestions on this topic. I was interested to hear that Amanda tells her English students not to translate swear words, rather than sweeping them under the carpet. And, of course, it's always their first area of expertise!

I've always thought that one very good indication of someone's command of the English language is how well they cope with intracacies swear words and vulgar expressions - the subtle difference between "taking the piss" and "taking a piss" ...


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Amanda Grey  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:40
French to English
Irish and the Irish Jul 25, 2003

Me again, and to conclude:

I thought that "Slainte" was aimed at myself - being Irish and all that

Don't speak Irish myself, but did it in school and, yes, the grammar was a bitch! But I do speak a lovely variation of Irish English, à la George Bernard Shaw / Oscar Wilde etc.

As for "taking the piss", I tend to tone it down slightly, as in "taking the michael".

Slán go fóill!


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