Is There a Good Way to Translate Chinese Poetry?

The answer is clearly “Yes and no,” but detailed discussions of translation are always interesting, and here‘s one by Xujun Eberlein (you can read an interview with her here). Now, I have to say she lost me in terms of trusting her ear for poetry with this:

I’ve heard some other Chinese poets praising Ezra Pound’s errors in translating ancient Chinese poetry, saying that even the errors were interesting to read. A close look at Pound’s errors, however, demonstrated otherwise for me. Take “The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” as an example. The original poem by Li Bai (701-762) makes allusion to the “holding-pillar faith” allegory, which comes from a book by ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi. The allegory goes like this: A man is waiting for his date under a bridge. Before the woman arrives, however, the river water unexpectedly rises. To be faithful to his date, the man doesn’t leave; he holds onto a pillar of the bridge until he drowns. The moral of this allegory is that one can place love above his own life. Pound, who did not know the Chinese language at the time, based his “translation” on Ernest Fenollosa’s meticulous unpublished notes. Fenollosa had written a draft translation of the lines that allude to the allegory, “I always had in me the faith of holding to pillars / And why should I think of climbing the husband looking out terrace.” This is quite accurate literally, but it is unclear whether Fenollosa was aware of the allusion. In any case, he did not explain it. At this point, Pound, who had faithfully followed Fenollosa’s notes so far but apparently couldn’t make sense of this part, chose to dodge it completely. He simply translated the corresponding line as “forever and forever and forever.” The meaning of “forever” was indeed implied by Li Bai in the poem, but the great Tang Dynasty poet whose pen was said to “startle the wind and rain” would never have written it so tritely. Translation like that, certainly a big departure from the original style, is uninspiring.

“The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” is one of the glories of English poetry, for reasons which have nothing to do with Fenollosa or the details of the Chinese original, and anyone who can call “forever and forever and forever” trite and uninspiring has no business discussing it. (Perhaps Eberlein thinks the same about Lear’s “Never, never, never, never, never”? [Thanks for correcting the quote, Michael!]) But she goes on to discuss two translations of a poem by the contemporary Chinese poet Han Dong in satisfying detail, so by all means check it out if you like that sort of thing.

Also involving Chinese: China’s tyranny of characters, by R.K.G. at The Economist; it takes off from Pokémon’s announcement that “the names of the creatures would henceforth be written in characters that adhere to Mandarin pronunciation, not Cantonese,” and discusses the much-discussed issue of Chinese characters. Thanks, Paul!

Comments

  1. At least in Shakespeare’s account, King Lear said “Nothing will come of nothing” and “Never, never, never, never, never”, but he never said “Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing”.

  2. Eskandar says:

    From the Economist article: “The other part of the linguistic revolution is that computers and mobiles mean that children are spending less time slogging away at the rote learning of characters. That used to mean that students had little space left to think of anything else. It is often said that by the time a child has mastered writing characters, he has lost the ability to use what he has learned to be original.”

    Yes, it’s well-known that the more children learn, the less they are capable of thinking. That’s why it’s best to limit children’s education, so as to avoid filling up their brains completely. It is often said that illiterates are the most original people out there. Kudos to Victor Mair for this bold approach which flies in the face of the bien pensant pro-literacy crowd.

  3. Eliot’s prediction seem to have only been off in thinking that it would take three hundred years and not just one before Cathay

    will be called (and justly) a “magnificent specimen of XXth Century poetry” rather than a “translation.”

  4. And why should I think of climbing the husband looking out terrace.

    Huh?

  5. Huh?

    You need some dashes. 望夫臺 is like a widow’s walk.

    In any case, he did not explain it.

    From Kodama’s transcription of the notebook (in the Beinecke; Eberlein links to their page from an exhibit on Modernists and the Orient) in a paper in Paideuma, we know that some notes on the facing page did in fact explain it.

  6. January First-of-May says:

    There’s a lovely scene in Anna Korosteleva’s Guihua meixiang (Flowers of Cinnamon, Smell of Plum) where a bunch of Chinese guys living in Moscow tries to choose a decently translated Chinese poem for their presentation. Except, of course, all of the classics pale in comparison to the original Chinese.
    “Check some third-rate Chinese poet,” proposes the main character, “Wang Ji, for example.” That helps – the poems of Wang Ji turns out to be better in Russian than in original Chinese (it, of course, helps further that the constant references to drinking are a surprisingly good fit for Russian culture).

  7. SFReader says:

    Thanks for recommendation. I googled Anna Korosteleva, found her website and spent all day reading this wonderful book. Here it is

    http://samlib.ru/a/anna_a_k/guihuameixiang.shtml

  8. At least in Shakespeare’s account, King Lear said “Nothing will come of nothing” and “Never, never, never, never, never”, but he never said “Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing”.

    Woops, this is what comes of posting late in the day and not bothering to check one’s memory! I’ll change the post to eliminate the distracting error; thanks for catching it.

  9. Thanks for recommendation. I googled Anna Korosteleva, found her website and spent all day reading this wonderful book. Here it is

    Thanks for that, I look forward to checking it out when I have more time! (For those who don’t know Russian, “Korosteleva” is actually pronounced Korostelyova, with stress on the -yo-.)

  10. By the way, readers anywhere near the Shenandoah Valley should come see the excellent production of King Lear at the Blackfriars Playhouse (link), now until roughly Thanksgiving. I’ve probably mentioned the ASC here before, but it’s worth repeating. There are lots of Globes in the world, but Staunton (160 miles SSW of D.C., 30 miles W of Charlottesville) has the only recreation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater. The players are world-class, and they use ‘original practices’: lights stay on, no scenery, furniture is brought on as needed, very fast-moving and (how to put this?) language-oriented. Ask for a ‘gallant stool’ to sit right on stage, like this (I’m the bald guy on the left). I’d be glad to meet any Hatters who make the trip, just e-mail first. Stay for a weekend and you can also see Twelfth Night, the musical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and (opening early September) Henry VI, Part 2, all with the same twelve actors. For historians, the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library is a block away. (I have no financial connection to the ASC: just a satisfied customer.)

  11. @Eskandar: There’s learning, and then there’s learning. Suppose that a very large part of children’s education was memorizing the first million digits of π; would you expect that to promote critical thinking and creativity?

    We develop habits of mind, over time, and it takes time and/or effort to change them afterward. Promoting one habit of mind can easily come at the expense of another.

  12. Elessorn says:

    @Ran

    memorizing the first million digits of pi

    I’ve never thought of putting things that way. I’m sure you’re right that that’s how a lot of foreign learners view the whole system, and yeah, that would indeed be needless torture.

    Imagine, though, that every one of those digits was actually a meaningful piece of language you already knew, and that learning it instantly broadened your access to the world around you and expanded your ability to participate in it. Imagine that, moreover, the memorizing part of it was only a small fraction of your actual time spent practicing it, since every other school subject, not to mention every sign, every bit of useful text around you in a text-heavy modern society was constantly reinforcing it. Not sure if the patterns of thought this leads to are easily characterized, but would you agree they seem unlikely to resemble those of children set mercilessly to memorizing random numbers?

  13. Having taken part in many such discussions over the years, it seems clear to me that some people view learning characters one way and some the other, and never the twain shall meet.

  14. SFReader says:

    If 1.5 billion Chinese stop memorizing characters for years, what will they do instead for all that time?

    Assuming ten years of memorizing characters as an average, we get 15 billion man-years which is longer than age of our Universe.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    Imagine, though, that every one of those digits was actually a meaningful piece of language you already knew, and that learning it instantly broadened your access to the world around you and expanded your ability to participate in it.

    Sure. The question is “what if that weren’t necessary in the first place”.

    Imagine that, moreover, the memorizing part of it was only a small fraction of your actual time spent practicing it, since every other school subject, not to mention every sign, every bit of useful text around you in a text-heavy modern society was constantly reinforcing it.

    Most characters aren’t actually common enough for this.

    Furthermore, this phonetic aspect of the […] [writing system] doesn’t really become very useful until you’ve learned a few hundred characters, and even when you’ve learned two thousand, the feeble phoneticity of Chinese [characters] will never provide you with the constant memory prod that the phonetic quality of English does.

    Which means that often you just completely forget how to write a character. Period. If there is no obvious semantic clue in the radical, and no helpful phonetic component somewhere in the character, you’re just sunk. And you’re sunk whether your native language is Chinese or not; contrary to popular myth, Chinese people are not born with the ability to memorize arbitrary squiggles. In fact, one of the most gratifying experiences a foreign student of Chinese can have is to see a native speaker come up a complete blank when called upon to write the characters for some relatively common word. You feel an enormous sense of vindication and relief to see a native speaker experience the exact same difficulty you experience every day.

    This is such a gratifying experience, in fact, that I have actually kept a list of characters that I have observed Chinese people forget how to write. (A sick, obsessive activity, I know.) I have seen highly literate Chinese people forget how to write certain characters in common words like “tin can”, “knee”, “screwdriver”, “snap” (as in “to snap one’s fingers”), “elbow”, “ginger”, “cushion”, “firecracker”, and so on. And when I say “forget”, I mean that they often cannot even put the first stroke down on the paper. Can you imagine a well-educated native English speaker totally forgetting how to write a word like “knee” or “tin can”? Or even a rarely-seen word like “scabbard” or “ragamuffin”? I was once at a luncheon with three Ph.D. students in the Chinese Department at Peking University, all native Chinese (one from Hong Kong). I happened to have a cold that day, and was trying to write a brief note to a friend canceling an appointment that day. I found that I couldn’t remember how to write the character 嚔, as in da penti 打喷嚔 “to sneeze”. I asked my three friends how to write the character, and to my surprise, all three of them simply shrugged in sheepish embarrassment. Not one of them could correctly produce the character. Now, Peking University is usually considered the “Harvard of China”. Can you imagine three Ph.D. students in English at Harvard forgetting how to write the English word “sneeze”?? Yet this state of affairs is by no means uncommon in China. English is simply orders of magnitude easier to write and remember. No matter how low-frequency the word is, or how unorthodox the spelling, the English speaker can always come up with something, simply because there has to be some correspondence between sound and spelling. One might forget whether “abracadabra” is hyphenated or not, or get the last few letters wrong on “rhinoceros”, but even the poorest of spellers can make a reasonable stab at almost anything. By contrast, often even the most well-educated Chinese have no recourse but to throw up their hands and ask someone else in the room how to write some particularly elusive character.

    http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html

  16. elessorn says:

    @Hat

    Having taken part in many such discussions over the years, it seems clear to me that some people view learning characters one way and some the other, and never the twain shall meet.

    Wise words, no doubt. And who wants to try and convince someone that their optimal solution is suboptimal to one’s own? Not I. But about the actual facts of character use as is–which are all I ever dispute, knowing them well!–there should be a lot of agreement possible, and people can share fact-assessments while still advocating wildly different conclusions. The weird reality of mass character literacy should be an endlessly fascinating topic even if one thinks they’re like wax tablets to tablet computing. Or at least, one likes to think so.

    @David

    The question is “what if that weren’t necessary in the first place”.
    Was it, though? To answer your question: could writing be learned more easily if Chinese always had been, or was now made to be, more phonetically written? Sure–who would argue the point? But the question at dispute was actually: “Does the system as it exists now disfavor habits of independent thought”? And to this I would say clearly not. Cf. China, Taiwan, HK, Japan.

    Most characters aren’t actually common enough for this.
    I would say this is not true. It’s even possible if you’re an adult foreign learner. Now, it would be true if you meant, “out of all characters that have ever existed,” but we’re talking about those chosen as useful and taught to children in school. Are most characters taught in school common enough to be reinforced constantly by the environment? Absolutely. The flip side of this is, “some small number of characters taught in school are not actually common enough to be reinforced,” which is also true. And this gets to what Moser is actually referring to.

    Indeed, this post by him is a bit misleading in general, though it takes a lot of experience with characters to spot it:

    In fact, one of the most gratifying experiences a foreign student of Chinese can have is to see a native speaker come up a complete blank when called upon to write the characters for some relatively common word. You feel an enormous sense of vindication and relief to see a native speaker experience the exact same difficulty you experience every day.

    This is possibly already known to you–I wouldn’t be surprised :)–but “common word” does not necessarily mean “contains only common characters.” There are a lot of common words that contain one fairly rare character, and a lot of characters that appear commonly, but only in one or two words. If you add to these characters that are both common and appear in a variety of words, but have something unique or unintuitive in their graphic formation, you have there most of the characters that cause “character amnesia.” Of course sometimes plain and easy characters are randomly forgotten, the way even educated native English speakers every now and then misspell, say, “misspell”, if they haven’t written it recently. At any rate, it just happens that in Chinese the character for “sneeze” is rare, and that for “calendar” is common, while in English the former is easier to spell than the latter. Not a big problem either way, since we do a lot more reading than writing anyway. Of course, it would all be easier in pure pinyin, but this doesn’t change the fact that this really, really is not a big problem.

    BTW Moser is also wrong when he says “the exact same difficulty you experience every day.” Native and even very advanced non-native character fluencies are very, very different things. But that’s another topic.

  17. To me it seems like writing in Chinese characters is most alike to learning a separate lexicon — analogous maybe to learning two related languages since you can use the semantic and phonetic clues to connect the two. This is obscured because it is natural to think of the two sets of words/morphemes as ‘the same but in different media,’ but you are really translating whenever you read or write.

    But humans are eminently capable of similar feats involving two spoken languages — think of Hindi and Urdu that reportedly differ only in vocabulary — so it’s wrong to claim that the Chinese system is a crime against nature like some people do, and since the character ‘lexicon’ has more redundancy than the spoken one, it may actually be better suited for writing once you have mastered it.

    Also compare with time that Danish children (for instance) spend learning English, and the amount of English-language material they are exposed to, and I think the two situations are pretty similar in fact. And nobody talks about abandoning Danish in favor of English!

    But the fact remains that it is more work to learn two representations of each morpheme instead of one — the debate is about how much more work — and every report I’ve seen shows that the vast majority of users are happily, indeed with relief, offloading the majority of the task of remembering characters to smartphones and computers. This may actually save the system, since the argument of utility (pinyin) versus tradition and esthetics (characters) loses much of its force when you can have both for the same effort.

  18. Elessorn: Are you talking about type frequencies or token frequencies? I can’t quite follow your discussion because of this uncertainty.

  19. Jim (another one) says:

    ““The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” is one of the glories of English poetry, for reasons which have nothing to do with Fenollosa or the details of the Chinese original, ”

    In other words it stands alone on its own. What does that have to do with the quality of the translation? And do we care if the poem is so good?

    The real issue here is not the language but the literary culture the line depends on, and this is a lot like Bible translation and its travails. There is the problem of translating the expression “lamb of God.” Apparently when they were trying to do this in Kalaallisut or one of those languages, the closest they could come up with was “baby seal of God.” Whichever office it is in the Vatican approved this one because it emphasized innocence and harmlessness. They didn’t accept the translation for some Mayan language, “turkey chick of God”, apparently a reference to royalty. Imagine that.

    The King James Bible is actually full of this kind of stuff, with a tendency to err on the side of verbatim incomprehensibility. The reference to Moses coming down the mountain with horns on his head is one example.

  20. Elessorn says:

    John Cowan:

    Sorry about that– token frequencies, both in the part about ambient reinforcement of school-taught characters, and in the discussion of the mechanisms behind what is misleadingly called “character amnesia.”

    Of course type frequencies play an important part as well. They act as a hook for memory and recognition. Though instead of type maybe component would be a better word. Both in dictionaries and in education characters are divided into types/classes by radicals–which are not always obvious–but these only help with part of a character’s shape, and don’t explain well which characters are difficult to remember and which less so.

    If we think in components, however, we see why, for example, 賄賂 wairo “bribe” is tough for Japanese people to recall. It’s not a very very rare word, though its use is much more restricted than the English “bribe.” It’s more that in addition to (1) the two characters being uncommon in an absolute sense, and (2) both appearing in few other distinct words (the second character 賂 ro practically only in this word), their components are also difficult to recall. The shared shell radical 貝 used for money-related words is easy enough, but (3) the phonetic complement of the first, the 有 in 賄 wai, is usually read yuu, and (4) that of the second character, the 各 in 賂, is more often read something like kaku, though one very common character 路 “small road” is also ro. So it’s not that “people often forget the common word ‘bribe'”, more that “bribe” in Japanese is almost designed to be difficult to remember–the vagaries of ‘spelling.’

  21. In other words it stands alone on its own. What does that have to do with the quality of the translation?

    Nothing or a lot, depending on how you feel about these things. I normally fret about the accuracy of translations, but when the result is as transcendent as that, I just don’t care.

    And do we care if the poem is so good?

    I don’t know who “we” is, but if someone doesn’t care if a poem is good, I’m not sure why they would want to be paying attention to poetry. [N.b.: I misunderstood the quoted question; see below.]

  22. Elessorn: Thanks, that’s a lot clearer.

    Hat: I think that sentence should be read as “And do we care, if the poem is that good?” It’s that Advanced British Comma Deletion.

  23. Bathrobe says:

    There are few and confusing links between the form of a character and its sound. Some, but not all, characters have a phonetic clue to how they should be pronounced

    This sentence is actually incorrect. It makes it sound like most characters are constructed semantically and require large amounts of mental effort to place firmly in memory. It’s depressing to see people taking this message away from Moser, for which Moser himself, in his evangelical opposition to Chinese characters, is partly to blame. More correctly it should read:

    “There are links, although not always consistent links, between the form of a character and its sound. In fact, a majority, although not all, characters have a phonetic clue to how they should be pronounced.”

    Elessorn’s example of 賄賂 above shows characters that are difficult to remember precisely because the link to pronunciation is harder to discern than usual.

  24. Hat: I think that sentence should be read as “And do we care, if the poem is that good?” It’s that Advanced British Comma Deletion.

    Ah, of course you’re right. (And thus we see the dark side of comma minimalism.)

  25. Bathrobe says:

    The takeaway from Eberlein is in the last paragraph: If this above analysis makes sense, I hope that the point is made in proposing a necessary criterion for good translation of poetry: do all you can to preserve the original form.

    Preserving the original form appears to include preserving tense and aspect marking.

    I wonder about this formulation. The Imagists loved Chinese poetry precisely because it had lots of images and was highly lapidary for linguistic reasons. And if done as Eberlein proposes, all Chinese poetry would end up sounding the same — simple, concise, and … Chinese. But how far can this principle be pushed? It’s well known that not all Chinese poetry goes well into English in the way prized by the Imagists. I think it was A.C. Graham who pointed out a poem by Tu Fu which ends lamely with the words “my tears flow down”.

    What do you do with languages that don’t go into English so easily? Traditional Japanese poetry, with the opposite word order from English, can be very hard to translate. “Old pond ya, frog jumps in, sound of water” is probably exceptional (and therefore famous) because it is so concrete. I am sure the problems multiply when you look at Latin poets.

    I think my point is that “do all you can to preserve the original form” runs just as much a risk of misrepresenting the nature of the original — by making things sound “different” when they are not different at all in terms of the original language — as adopting a more anglicising attitude.

  26. Absolutely. There is no one answer to the problem, and the older I get the tireder I get of people pretending there is. (The same is true of most complicated problems in life.)

  27. My favorite translation of that one:

    Pond
    Frog
    Plop

  28. David Marjanović says:

    Of course sometimes plain and easy characters are randomly forgotten, the way even educated native English speakers every now and then misspell, say, “misspell”, if they haven’t written it recently. At any rate, it just happens that in Chinese the character for “sneeze” is rare, and that for “calendar” is common, while in English the former is easier to spell than the latter.

    Note the difference: recognizable misspellings vs. inability to write the character at all.

    Not a big problem either way, since we do a lot more reading than writing anyway. Of course, it would all be easier in pure pinyin, but this doesn’t change the fact that this really, really is not a big problem.

    Define “big”…

    In fact, a majority, although not all, characters have a phonetic clue to how they should be pronounced.

    Oh, sure – but they were already imprecise 3000 years ago (it is thought that the rhyme/rime and the place of articulation of the initial consonant had to fit). As Moser wrote just before the part I quoted:

    Now imagine that you, a learner of Chinese, have just the previous day encountered the Chinese word for “president” (总统 zǒngtǒng ) and want to write it. What processes do you go through in retrieving the word? Well, very often you just totally forget, with a forgetting that is both absolute and perfect in a way few things in this life are. You can repeat the word as often as you like; the sound won’t give you a clue as to how the character is to be written. After you learn a few more characters and get hip to a few more phonetic components, you can do a bit better. (“Zǒng 总 is a phonetic component in some other character, right?…Song? Zeng? Oh yeah, cong 总 as in cōngmíng 聪明.”) Of course, the phonetic aspect of some characters is more obvious than that of others, but many characters, including some of the most high-frequency ones, give no clue at all as to their pronunciation.

    All of this is to say that Chinese is just not very phonetic when compared to English. (English, in turn, is less phonetic than a language like German or Spanish, but Chinese isn’t even in the same ballpark.) It is not true, as some people outside the field tend to think, that Chinese is not phonetic at all, though a perfectly intelligent beginning student could go several months without noticing this fact. Just how phonetic the language is [is] a very complex issue. Educated opinions range from 25% (Zhao Yuanren)^7 to around 66% (DeFrancis),^8 though the latter estimate assumes more knowledge of phonetic components than most learners are likely to have. One could say that Chinese is phonetic in the way that sex is aerobic: technically so, but in practical use not the most salient thing about it.

  29. Bathrobe says:

    It works a lot better in Japanese:

    総結 sōketsu (Chinese 总结 zǒngjié)
    聡明 sōmei (Chinese 聪明 cōngmíng)
    深窓 shinsō (Chinese uses the character 窗 rather than 窻; both are pronounced chuāng)

    Of course, this is an extreme example, but if Moser can use anecdotes to prove his point, so can I.

  30. I’m no expert in comparative poetics, but from my amateurish understanding of Chinese poetry, I can sympathize with Xujun Eberlein’s distaste for the line in Pound’s rendition. I think it is reflective of the difference in the criteria for “good poetry” across languages. The same expression may be poetic in one cultural context but not another.

    The King Lear quote is of course immensely powerful when delivered in English, because of its combination of rhythm and repetition. But I believe such a bold dramatic expression would “never, never, never” find its place among classical Chinese poets – and I would suspect that the poetic sensibility of the average Chinese reader is, to this day, still shaped by China’s tradition of classical poetry. On one hand, a direct outburst of emotion like this is generally avoided by Chinese poets, who would consider it inelegant and would, instead, favor something that has the quality of (to use François Jullien’s term) “fadeur” or “blandness”. Furthermore, Chinese poets have a penchant for using imagery inspired by nature; even if they wish convey the notion of eternity, chances are they would evoke the magnitude of the milky way (“The Han River of the Sky”) or the ever-flowing waves of Yangtze (drawing cue from a famous saying of Confucius), instead of saying anything so resolute as “forever and forever”. (On a side note, I have always liked the fact that “forever and ever” in Latin is “saecula saeculorum”. The genitive plural seems to carry so much dignity and grandeur. I guess an overly literal translation, something like “semper semperque atque semper” is not acceptable in Latin either.)

    Regarding this difference in perception of good poetry, I can think of another example that goes the other way round: duìzhàng 对仗, the rigorous semantic coupling which is a staple in most forms of classical Chinese poetry. In Chinese these couplets creates a balanced, harmonious feel that goes very well with the metre of a poem. Despite their formal rigidity, such couplets often become the vehicle of subtle witticisms and unexpected imagery. However, if they are produced in English verbatim, they would sound extremely clumsy and heavy-handed, with all the original beauty lost.

  31. David Marjanović says:

    “forever and ever” in Latin is “saecula saeculorum”

    Isn’t that exclusively Christian and a translation from Hebrew?

  32. It’s complicated, but generally yes. Note that Christian Latin has been around almost twice as long as pagan Latin had.

  33. You know, I just got my copy of that new edition of Cathay (short review: I can’t believe a superscript “1” became an apostrophe when there were only like 30 pages to proof; did they OCD this?! P.S. I am not a crank), and the line is actually “forever and forever, and forever”. Which is even better, frankly.

    (I would write more, but I had my shipmates lash me to the mast when I saw we were approaching another “Chinese characters: threat or menace?” argument.)

  34. OCD — optical character discognition?

  35. Probably a Freudian cry for help cum zinger from the part of my brain that would have preferred to crack open a beer rather than hit up archive.org to see if that apostrophe could possibly have been in the original too…

  36. “P.S. I am not a crank” made me laugh heartily.

  37. Surpringly, “P.S. I am not a crank,” does not have a page on Know Your Meme. Moreover, I discovered via Google that the original version from The Simpsons was “crackpot” rather than “crank.”

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