Does vulgar, obscene, indecent language deserve a free help in KudoZ?
Thread poster: Kevin Yang

Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:47
Member (2003)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Apr 10, 2002

Dear Fellow Translators,

As a member of for less than 4 months, I have seen from time to time the askers trying to get free help in translation of vulgar, obscene, indecent and rude words or sentence in KudoZ. It seems the requests are always from English to other languages. Personally, I cannot motivate myself enough to help these people. But surprisingly it seems these askers can always get what they want from our warm-hearted translators. I start to wonder if there is a line we should draw here, perhaps mentally, in terms of what we can help and cannot help. I wonder if you think this is also a Freedom of Speech and we should help these askers to say it right so as to express himself or herself well. Such topics might be discussed by you folks in the past. But they are definitely new here in the Chinese Forum. Thank you for your comments in advance!


Steffen Pollex (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:47
English to German
+ ...
Cannot but agree Apr 10, 2002

Thank you, Kevin for raising this issue. Although it is pretty seldom, sometimes terms and translations of rude or obscene content are requested. Even translation requests (jobs) for \"adult content\" have been published. I think, proz should clearly stay away from such practices and not allow this stuff on the site. Be it just for that you never know in what context your translations will appear and be used in the future by the receipient. \"Adult content\" may be okay for adults. But imagine that you, being unaware, of course, have translated something that will appear anywhere in connection with pornographic images involving children, which is, first, unesthetic, second, punishable by law in many countries. So, not allowing this kind of material to appear on the site would help to maintain a certain purity of proz and simply get the community as a whole and each one of us rid of possible furure headaches.


Pee Eff (X)
Local time: 19:47
English to German
+ ...
No censorship Apr 10, 2002

I think we should not censor any questions posted by askers on this web site. Every translator is free to answer them or leave them aside if he/her feels offended by the content of such questions.

Why not help people out when they want information about how to say such things in other languages? After all, swear-words or insults are an important part of any language in the world - and therefore yes, I do consider them part of the freedom of speech. Sometimes it might even be interesting to see the different concepts that are behind insults in different cultures or to see that some languages are a lot more creative in their swear-words than others (eg. Spanisch compared to German).

To make it short, I think there should be no censorship in whatever way. People who do not feel offended by such content may translate the questions and everybody else is free to choose not to answer them. The same for translations of \"adult content\". Everybody who feels comfortable may accept the job and there\'s no reason not to admit the job offer on this website (as long as the content is not illegal, of course). And there were a whole lot of bids on a recent job offer of \"adult content\" where the poster asked explicitely for translators with experience in the field...


Attila Piróth  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:47
English to Hungarian
+ ...
In many cases it is very justifiable. Apr 10, 2002

Baudelaire\'s `Les Fleurs de Mal\' was condemned for obscenity when published - now it is widely regarded as one of the greatest masterpieces in literature.

And if it comes to translating such things, you have to use the adequate language, which, in many cases might be shocking for some. The choice is yours whether you participate - but a definite `No\' is not the answer I would go for.

Have you seen Pulp fiction or Trainspotting? I would feel greatly honoured to get a chance of translating such a to-be-classic. And I would definitely keep the style of the original. Would it mean I could not ask for help at That would be very sad.

Back a good century ago, when Webster\'s first dictionary including four-letter words apperared, the author got many letters from people outraged by this fact. But even these prudic people had to look it up. As probably all of us do. I regard as a website where you can find help when you do not have a dictionary.

One more remark - that you might disagree with: bad language is often very poetic.

(Eric Patridge, a respected lexicographer put it this way: `Some of these words belong to the aristocracy of the language.\')I can definitely say that about my native Hungarian, in whose case it dates back to the time of the shamans. You can try to suppress it, but you would lose a part of the language that is very important. If you are careful when and how to use it, it can be a very strong means of expressing yourself.


Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
The usual problem: Where do you draw the line? Apr 10, 2002

What about those who subtitle feature movies? Will you ban their access to this translators\' community even if the original movies are watched by millions of people around the world?

My usual answer is: Common sense alone should help you decide on a case-by-case basis whether we have to do with a legitimate linguistic interest or obscenity.


Eivind Lilleskjaeret  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
Member (2004)
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Don't answer it if you don't like it... Apr 10, 2002

... but I for one didn\'t join an Internet community to be subjected to, and hemmed in by, what other people find proper or not. The word \"obscenity\" itself implies there is such a thing as \"normality\"... So Jacek, I support you 100%.

But Steffen, you really are pushing debauchery to its limits -- if you think pornography involving children is \"first, unesthetic, second, punishable by law\", now that\'s what I call unscroupulous aestheticism! Walking the extra mile for amorality. icon_wink.gif


Alan Johnson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
German to English
Your choice Apr 10, 2002

Basically, you draw the line yourself. Some questions posted are, as you say rude or obscene, and I find some also fit the \"downright ridiculous\" category and don\'t belong here. But I\'m afraid the management is not prepared to move against these. You have to make your own choices.


Mats Wiman  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
Member (2000)
German to Swedish
+ ...

Create 'The black room' for offensive questions Apr 10, 2002

Dear all,

I have already suggested a \'Black room\' to be created in the KudoZ arena, allowing possibly offensive questions to be put and answered.

You wouuld only access these questions if you pressed ENTER to the question \'Black room questions?\' (or you could inlcude it in you profile page preferences), so no one could be offended, bored or whatever.

If the asker has not pressed the \'Put this question in the Black room\' button, moderators could (just as they can bump questions today).

I hope time will be made free for implementing this function, which obviously disturb quite a few members.



Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:48
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Vulgarity not always realised by asker Apr 10, 2002

Somebody recently asked for the Spanish for \"pocket billiards\". Two answers were given concerning billiards being played on a board with pockets, and a third answer gave the meaning of playing with one\'s testicles through one\'s clothing, which I think was the correct answer, though one of the others was selected by the asker.

In general, I agree that it is a matter of personal choice where to draw the line.


Kevin Yang  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:48
Member (2003)
English to Chinese
+ ...
"Black Room" or "Sin City" Apr 10, 2002


On 2002-04-10 09:35, MatsWiman wrote:

Dear all,

I have already suggested a \'Black room\' to be created in the KudoZ arena, allowing possibly offensive questions to be put and answered.

You wouuld only access these questions if you pressed ENTER to the question \'Black room questions?\' (or you could inlcude it in you profile page preferences), so no one could be offended, bored or whatever.

If the asker has not pressed the \'Put this question in the Black room\' button, moderators could (just as they can bump questions today).

I hope time will be made free for implementing this function, which obviously disturb quite a few members.



That\'s a nice thought! I guess we don\'t have the power the eliminate the interest of being dirty and rude, we can, at least, confine them into a special area, such as a \"Black Room\" that you suggested, or call it \"Sin City\" as a porn store here in Oregon, but please do me a favor, don\'t build it next to the Chinatown. icon_wink.gif


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-10 11:03 ]


Local time: 19:48
Afrikaans to Spanish
+ ...
translator = censor ? Apr 10, 2002

I remember when I was working for United Nations that a senior translator told me not to create a diplomatic conflict with the translation of some documents from some countries.

You can always do what you think you have to do. That\'s Ethic.


Local time: 13:48
English to German
+ ...
Don't dramatize the issue! Apr 10, 2002

First of all, I agree 100% with Jacek that common sense should be your guide. So is anyone not confident enough here that he has this common sense? That person step forward then!

Regarding Steffen\'s remark, I think it\'s paranoid and far-fetched to immediately jump to child pornography, when you know after all that all such KudoZ questions only involved vulgar or at the most regular pornographic questions. So don\'t do a witchhunt here, just because you picked up one of the most fashionable topics these days: paedophilia. Don\'t go overboard!

But as far as regular oscenity or vulgarism, I think we\'d be foolish and dishonest to deny that even these few hundred words do belong to our languages and cultures. I\'ve even seen a dictionary of them printed in a second-hand bookstore in Seattle. Now I\'m sorry I didn\'t buy it. It was from English to another language.

So I think that we should answer such KudoZ questions, using sound judgment, when not to do it. And I realize that our tolerance levels are different, so if yours is lower and don\'t like even light curses, okay, then just don\'t answer, but let others! And yes, I do think that it is a freedom of speech issue, that\'s why I\'m saying \"let others\"!

I personally draw the line, when the intention to harm someone is visible from the question. But that\'s rarely the case.

P.S.: Vulgarism is part of slang and just as not everyone is familiar with all the slang, especially correctly, the same is true for vulgarism: not everyone is able to translate it (mostly you have to have lived in that country).

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-10 11:33 ]


Silvina Beatriz Codina  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:48
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
There are two sides to this issue... Apr 10, 2002

On the one hand, obscenities are an integral part of any language, and you should know all about them if you claim to know a language well. There are indeed dictionaries and serious works about this kind of expressions, such as the Historical Dictionary of American Slang, a precious source, but one you cannot even open if you seriously object to four-letter words. Also, you may have a legitimate reason to make such queries. In fact, I have worked with \"adult material\" in the past, and believe me, it is not that easy to find certain vocabulary!

On the other hand, one has always the suspicion that this kind of query is probably not posted by translators or people with a legitimate need to know, but by the usual idiots, who may find more rewarding to write such a word under the form of a KudoZ question, for the whole world to see, and even get it translated into other languages, rather than simply scrawl them in the local public restroom.

I don\'t answer queries of the second type; as a matter of fact, I have never answered one such query, because I have never been satisfied about the query being legit.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-04-10 13:55 ]


Local time: 11:48
English to Chinese
+ ...
interesting topic. May 12, 2003

I think at least vulgar/obscene questions posted by anonymous or users without profile should be ignored. Whoever asking the question must have at least certain criteria, say, measured by kudos points or browniz. That way whoever was found abusing the system can be held accountable (withdrawal of the membership).

Also i support the use of \"risqu閈" term area where question of vulgar/obscene nature can be posted. Disclaimers, check box... the whole works. I think some of these questions are legitimate and should be answered. The use of slangs whether vulgar or not certainly demonstrates fluency and competence of the use of a language.

my 2 cents,


[ This Message was edited by: Kvasir on 2003-05-16 08:35]


Thierry LOTTE  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:48
Member (2001)
English to French
+ ...
Common sense May 16, 2003

Just use your common sense :

It is very easy to make the difference between somebody who tries to use the site for bad reasons, and someone who really needs it for professional reasons :

- The one who belongs to the first category generally is an anonymous asker and usually post his questions on the Saturday or on the Sunday.

- The second one is translating some literary text ( novel, press cut, etc) or motion pictures subtitles, and never posts anonymous questions.

In such a case I really do think it is difficult to refuse our help : we are translators, not censors

Just an example : would it be possible to translate from French some poems or novels of Jean Genet without using some very politically incorrect expressions or words ? Personally I do not share Jean Genets sentimental orientations but I have to recognize that his way to write French is absolutely flabbergasting

Now, something even worst : how to translate some pages of Franis Rabelais (considered as one of the masters of the French literature of the 16th century) which are pure and true scatology ? Should we refuse our help to the courageous translator who involved himself in this very difficult task ?

Since a few weeks on the KudoZ we have somebody who is translating a very difficult French text (target language is Spanish) written, for 60 pct, in French slang. Of course, from time to time, our colleague has to ask for the translation of a few offensive words or expressions : shall we refuse our help when it is absolutely obvious that he/she is sincerely involved in an uneasy job ?

A last example : everybody knows this great piece of Arabic literature which is the tales of 1000 and 1 nights.

There were two early translations:

- The first one in French by Antoine Galland in the 18th century which gave us a completely censored text (without mentioning it of course) but for all publics.

- The second one in English by Sir Richard Burton (nothing to do with the welsh actor) at the end of the 19th century which is rather crude.

Now, when some Arabic country (dont remember which one) decided to prohibit the 1001 Nights for obscenity the French could not understand its reasons, and yelled to barbary because they never red the true text

Methinks that Antoine Galland, as translator, betrayed a great text and civilization

Best regards to all and please kindly forgive me for my poor English.


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