TRANSLATING PINOCCHIO.

Back at the start of the year the LRB ran a review (only a couple of paragraphs online, I’m afraid) by Bee Wilson of Geoffrey Brock’s new translation of Pinocchio. Wilson writes:

Until now, the best-known modern translation has been Ann Lawson Lucas’s, and in several respects it is still a better buy, thanks to Lucas’s detailed explanatory notes and full historical preface, which are more useful than Umberto Eco’s thin introduction to the new edition. Judged purely as a translation, however, Brock’s version is more natural and engaging, with a better feeling for how to turn colloquial 19th-century Tuscan into colloquial modern English (or rather colloquial American, which is effectively the same thing).
Brock is better at the humour, and unlike Lucas doesn’t use quaint idioms (‘Poodle’ and ‘Tuna’ rather than ‘Poodle-Dog’ and ‘Tunny-Fish’) or over-translate (Lucas turns ‘tortellini’ into ‘steak and kidney pudding’, apparently unaware that today most English-speaking children are far more familiar with different pasta shapes than with stodgy meat puddings).

It turns out Lucas also renders Collodi’s Geppetto as “Old Joe” (out of a “desire to get away from the awful, denaturing ‘cuteness’ of the Walt Disney school of thought”)—as Wilson says, “You might just as well rechristen the whole book ‘Pine Nut'”—but I didn’t need any further counts in the indictment; I refuse to read anything that translates “tortellini” as “steak and kidney pudding.”

Comments

  1. There was a live-action movie of Pinocchio a while back, with Roberto Benigni. The whole affair was quite surreal, and the occasionally strange English dubbed over it seemed to complement the movie’s inherent strangeness very nicely.

  2. into colloquial modern English (or rather colloquial American, which is effectively the same thing).
    Ouch! Hyperbole and ugly arrogance all rolled into one. Not endearing.

  3. Ouch! Hyperbole and ugly arrogance all rolled into one. Not endearing.

    Bee Wilson is British, so whatever this may be, arrogance can’t have much to do with it.

  4. dearieme says:

    Steak and kidney pudding is a social construct.

  5. Bee Wilson is British, so whatever this may be, arrogance can’t have much to do with it.
    Aah, bitterness, then. Colloquial American is not the same thing by a long chalk as colloquial Indian English, for example, and there are as many speakers of Indian English as there are of US English. Perhaps Bee is just bitter that the de facto standard variant (as opposed to coloquial) is American and not British.

  6. Bee Wilson is British, so whatever this may be, arrogance can’t have much to do with it.
    I doubt an American would have come up with the line, because arrogant as we Yanks may be, most of us have no idea how deeply our wretched colonial slang has infected the hitherto pure speech of the mother country.

  7. John Emerson says:

    England is to American as Frisia is to England.

  8. My preference for tortellini over steak and kidney pudding extends to the dinner table.

  9. Much as I love pasta, unless you’re vegetarian, there’s nothing wrong with steak-and-kidney pudding. Or pie, either. Joyce made the idea of eating kidneys unpalatable by associating them with the smell (or was it taste?) of urine.

  10. Much as I love pasta, unless you’re vegetarian, there’s nothing wrong with steak-and-kidney pudding.Or pie
    As a fellow pastaphile, I must agree. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had steak-and-kidney pudding, but a good steak-and-kidney pie is hard to beat as a winter warmer.

  11. With some hesitation about the propriety of connecting this thread with the otter one that has been rattling on since July 10, I point out that according to legend the invention of the tortellini was the result of a glimpse of the navel of Lucretia Borgia through a keyhole.

  12. I know I’m the source of endless mistakes in foreign languages, but how did “soprattutto dove le comunità italiane hanno una certa importanza” become “especially where Italian communities have a certain relief”? In what sense might a dictionary connect those two?

  13. I would assume they got off on the wrong foot based on a definition like M-W’s “the state of being distinguished by contrast <throws the two opinions into bold relief>.”

  14. 0: tortellini was the result of a glimpse of the navel of Lucretia Borgia
    You just like the idea of forming a pasta around a zero.

  15. For some reason perfectly straightforward Italian architecture books and magazines are routinely translated in such a bizarre way that their meaning becomes incomprehensible in English. It’s a problem that is well-known.

  16. Maybe Joyce had an unpleasant experience with making steak-and-kidney pie himself. My mother was quite fond of the canned ones, and tried making one from scratch 20+ years ago. The first step was to boil the kidneys for three hours, which made the entire house smell like cowpiss. Presumably it takes three hours to get all the piss out of the kidneys, but getting the smell out of the house took linger. After that she went back to the canned ones.

  17. Dressing Gown says:

    I refuse to read anything that translates “tortellini” as “steak and kidney pudding.”
    I’m not so sure it’s as great a sin as all that. Since translation is the quest to recreate a work of literature in a totally different idiom, there are obviously going to be many different approaches to doing this. I know nothing about Ann Lawson Lucas, but she teaches at the University of Hull where, for all I know, children might be better acquainted with steak and kidney pudding than they are with tortellini. Had Lawson Lucas been translating a hundred years ago, the substitution might have been quite natural. Since her translation is a modern one, the greatest accusation that might be made is that she is guilty of trying to turn the clock back.
    In actual fact, what she appears to be trying to do is recreate Pinocchio in quite a novel way as a de-Italianised story. Since American children are presumably familiar with tortellini, the failure to stick to the original Italian is inevitably going to provoke outrage on the grounds of needless infidelity. But from the sound of it, Ann Lawson Lucas’s version is actually designed to recreate Pinocchio in a 19th-century English context, where children don’t know tortellini and haven’t much idea what a tuna is. In spirit if not in language, it sounds like an effort at deliberate archaisation. As an attempt to recreate a story in a different culture and language, it deserves consideration on its own merits, and not merely on the technical grounds that it took liberties with the translation of “tortellini”.
    Incidentally, Ann Lawson Lucas edited The Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature. The introduction she wrote for that volume doesn’t seem to give any clues as to her motivation for translating “tortellini” as “steak and kidney pudding”, but the very title “presence of the past in children’s literature” gives a curious hint at what she might have been trying to do.
    (Pity the link only gives a few paragraphs from the review. It would have been interesting to read Bee Wilson’s entire review.)

  18. Dressing Gown says:

    The Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature can be found at Google books.

  19. michael farris says:

    I tend to agree with Dressing Gown and think this approach is a valid one. No, it’s not the only version I’d want, but I think it’s an interesting and valid take on the story. I tend towards the idea that several translations, with different priorities, give a better idea of the original than any single version.
    As for tortellini, knowing what tortellini is/are doesn’t necessarily tell us what it was, if you follow my meaning. In the original are/is tortellini a symbol of:
    1. comfort food
    2. a special treat
    3. simple daily fare
    4. an exotic dish
    5. something else
    I’m pretty sure it’s not upper middle class trendy fare (how I tend to perceive it in English).

  20. mollymooly says:

    I also agree with Dressing Gown, except that Lucas should indeed have rechristened Pinocchio “Pine-Nut”. Perhaps OUP nixed that.

  21. michael farris says:

    Yeah I was assuming that publishing powers-that-be didn’t want to rename the title character (though I think leaving the book title the same and calling him Pine Nut in the story could have worked, with maybe a note at the beginning).
    Anglicising the name does make me think differently about him and does erase the Walt Disney connotations.

  22. In actual fact, what she appears to be trying to do is recreate Pinocchio in quite a novel way as a de-Italianised story.
    I look forward to her de-Russianized version of Baba Yaga: “Grandmother Yaga awoke in her split-level home and made bacon and eggs for breakfast…” Or should that be Grandmother Yetta?

  23. dearieme says:

    Is “pine nut” ever used as a rude allusion in Italian?

  24. Tortellini are upper middle class trendy fare?
    Really, Michael, you’ve just managed to insult millions of honest hardworking Italian Americans in the tri-state region.

  25. Yes, I was surprised by that also. I just think of them as good honest pasta.

  26. michael farris says:

    Well, I meant among the non-Italian waspish parts of the population, for whom spaghetti was pretty out there (when I was growing up).
    I still don’t know of the cultural connotations (if any) it would have for Italian Americans or Italian Italians for that matter.
    And hat, I never realize Baba Yaga was a portrayal of typical middle class Russian suburban retirees (which your transferal would suggest).

  27. David Marjanović says:

    For me, spaghetti are just another shape of noodle, and tortellini aren’t much more spectacular either… but I bet this was very different before WWII.

  28. michael farris says:

    I really don’t think ‘pasta’ (as opposed to macaroni, spagetti and noodles) was a mainstream US word until the latter half of the 70’s at the earliest.

  29. In “The Odd Couple” Felix, in the middle of a rageful confrontation with Oscar, corrects the latter as to what it was that one of them had angrily thrown at the wall: not spaghetti, but linguini.
    At that point in American history (late 60s?) a guy like Oscar wouldn’t have known a word like linguini, but a guy like Felix would have.

  30. And hat, I never realize Baba Yaga was a portrayal of typical middle class Russian suburban retirees (which your transferal would suggest).
    OK, OK, make it a trailer and grits.

  31. And I guess she’ll be Granny Yokum.

  32. Ø? Is that a schwa?

  33. John Emerson says:

    I vote for de-Italianizing as a valid option. As folk tales and myths travel around they get adapted. Breughel’s Netherlandish nativity scenes are an extreme example.
    True, “Pinocchio” has an author and base text, but folkifying it seems like an excellent idea to me.

  34. Okay then, I’m going to translate tortellini as ‘lutefisk’, from now on.

  35. Ø? Is that a schwa?
    Is what a schwa? Do you mean “is the ‘ø’ a schwa?” It’s not, but I’m not entirely sure where it came from.

  36. I could make a well-informed guess that it might be Norway.

  37. Sorry. Or Denmark, of course.

  38. I never really thought about, but thanks to Wikipedia (article on the empty set) here is an instant answer:
    … introduced by the Bourbaki group (specifically Andre Weil) in 1939, inspired by the letter Ø in the Danish and Norwegian alphabet.
    But mathematicians don’t pronounce it as a vowel; they read it as “the empty set” or a synonymous expression.

  39. I thought mathematicians read it as ‘phi’, but I never got that far with math. I did read, some years ago, a very interesting 4-volume set of books The World of Mathematics, an anthology edited by James Newman. I wouldn’t say it changed my life exactly, but it caused me to harangue people at parties about the relevance of the history of mathematics and how it ought to be taught in schools. I still think that.

  40. I used to think it was a phi, but when you asked I wasn’t at all sure. I’m glad I looked it up. (And I hope that WP is right. For all I know, Weil was thinking of phi and the WP author just always assumed he was thinking of the Norse letter.)
    I never read that set of books, although I’ve heard of it of course.
    In general, if you want to get grip on a concept or a subject, a sense of its history can be an awfully good thing to have.

  41. I thought mathematicians read it as ‘phi’
    No, that’s a different symbol, φ.
    I did read, some years ago, a very interesting 4-volume set of books The World of Mathematics, an anthology edited by James Newman. I wouldn’t say it changed my life
    It changed mine—that’s what made me want to become a mathematician. (I didn’t, in the end, but I’m glad I got a good grounding in the subject.)

  42. No, that’s a different symbol, φ.
    Yes, but look here. Scattered around the page you see various ways of “typesetting” the lower-case phi, including one that is basically a circle skewered by a vertical line segment (like standard upper-case Phi but smaller and sans serifs). You sometimes see the same thing (in lower case) with the line somewhat slanted, but maybe not on this page except when italicized.
    From Greeks who come to the US to do math I have heard tales of how we mispronounce the letters here. I have also been told how laughable our way of writing some of them is; it seems that our carefully practiced blackboard imitation of a typeset Greek letter is not at all like the way the letter is written at home.
    I have occasionally interrupted a math lecture to name some Greek letters, in the hope of sometimes managing to have things called by their right names. Grown-up mathematicians have been known to adopt a Greek letter to denote some entity when writing a research paper, and then to reveal in giving a talk on the subject that they in fact don’t know the name of the letter (calling lambda “theta” or some such thing)!
    Once in a freshman calculus I had someone who liked to call alpha “fish” because that was her high school math teacher’s jocular name for it. It does look a bit like a fish, but probably not when Greeks write it.

  43. interrupted a math lecture
    I meant my own lecture, not somebody else’s.

  44. I always assumed ∅ was from 0. I fixed Wikipedia’s source link, which looks thoroughly researched.
    The World of Mathematics
    I inherited my mother’s father’s set as a boy.
    call alpha “fish”
    No, no. gamma is Yu-Shiang Whole Fish. And, just so there’s no confusion, most of us did actually know the Greek alphabet; it was just drawn that way in the SAIL font.

  45. folkifying it seems like an excellent idea to me.
    But this is not without risks. As an example, Harry Potter is pretty de-Briticized and Frenchified in French. So, names that carry meaning are translated (Slytherin to Serpentard and so on). The problem then is, that the “all [or most] French are bad” embedded in the original—with Voldemort, Malfoy, Lestrange, et al, being of French origin/meaning (also somewhat suggesting Britocracy)—does not follow through, as in translation all names mean something in French, in contrast to the original.
    So if, for example, the answer to Is “pine nut” ever used as a rude allusion in Italian? is yes, then there would be a clear issue with folkification.
    TL

  46. It changed mine—that’s what made me want to become a mathematician.
    Agreed, it was an inspiring series. I would have felt the same, but I know my lim.
    In my handwriting I use a phi-like vertical line in the Norwegian letter Ø, because I don’t like it to look like a crossed-out O.
    I have occasionally interrupted a math lecture to name some Greek letters
    My knowledge of the Greek alphabet comes from structural engineering classes; the letter Σ is ‘summation’ to me, not sigma.

  47. When Andre Weil chose that symbol for the empty set he must have been thinking of zero. And, presumably a good deal later and I suppose independently, some people (maybe initially computer people?) began writing their zeroes with a line through them to avoid confusion with the latter O.

  48. writing their zeros with a line through them to avoid confusion with the letter O
    This was the official convention at Digital Equipment Corporation in the 80s, used on computer schematics and for part numbers. I don’t think IBM and other biggies (definitely not Control Data) picked it up though. The official “DECalphabet” for numbering pins on the backplane did not include the letter “O”.

  49. tlajous says:

    Ø –
    0̸, the crossed out 0, pre-dates computers. It’s from teletypes and even hand-written, to distinguish O from 0. I think Nick took it from there to theØ.
    TL

  50. In handwriting some Norwegians have a habit of putting a horizontal line over their U, something like a German ü. All these things — crossed 7s are another — are unnecessary.

  51. Unnecessary is okay, it doesn’t do any harm, but they’re also ugly.

  52. komfo,amonan says:

    In handwriting some Norwegians have a habit of putting a horizontal line over their U, something like a German ü.
    The Germans, in their old Sütterlinschrift, did this too, except with a macron-like curve. I have always assumed that it served to distinguish ‘u’ from ‘n’, which are otherwise identical in that script.

  53. Yeah, i thought there was a German element. Thank you for that.

  54. Trond Engen says:

    Unnecessary is okay, it doesn’t do any harm, but they’re also ugly.
    No, we’re not. Except A. O. Vinje, but he’s dead.

  55. mollymooly says:

    The 7 (seven) with crossbar is distinct from the 1 (one) with downstroke, which is distinct from the l (ell) with hook, which is distinct from capital I (eye).
    The 1 with downstroke does look like a capital lambda, but that’s rarely needed in most European languages.

  56. A. O. Vinje
    That led me to some interesting wandering around the nynorsk Wikipedia pages.

  57. (seven) with crossbar is distinct from the 1 (one) with downstroke
    My point is that if you don’t put a downstroke on your one you won’t have to cross your seven. (It would have been better not to have messed about with the one in the first place; and then the seven wouldn’t need to be crossed out.)

  58. bruessel says:

    Like mollymooly points out, if you don’t put a downstroke on your one, it can be confused with l (ell) or capital I (eye), so there was a reason for doing so. We all have our personal preferences, I don’t think the seven with crossbar is ugly at all, on the contrary.

  59. I don’t think the seven with crossbar is ugly at all, on the contrary.
    Me neither. I got in the habit in Argentina over 40 years ago and do it to this day, and it enraged me a few years back to read about some hick town where they’d forbidden people employed by the town to write their sevens with a crossbar, presumably out of the usual muddled, mean-spirited nativist sentiments.

  60. John Emerson says:

    Some of us have very haphazard handwriting, and the crossed seven is good for us. I hade to write “One liter” on the abbrevieated form “1 l.” and that was painful. “17 l.” might potentially have been worse.
    A supervisor who retired in 1975 or so forbade a friend of mine to use “Nazi sevens”.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    The Germans, in their old Sütterlinschrift, did this too, except with a macron-like curve.

    My grandma still does it, in normal script. Everyone did in the 1950s.

  62. bruessel says:

    “Everyone did in the 1950s.”
    That’s rather a sweeping comment, wouldn’t you say? I know for a fact that my parents didn’t, so that’s two people right there, and I’m pretty sure there were others who could distinguish very well between writing Sütterlinschrift and the so-called lateinische Schrift.

  63. some hick town where they’d forbidden people employed by the town to write their sevens with a crossbar
    Yes, that would certainly force me to start using them.
    It’s not so much an aesthetic question (though it is partly that, too); I think it’s conceptually ugly to cross a letter out in order to identify it.

  64. … i think there is a conceptual difference in the design of the greek letter phi, in which a vertical stroke is a part of the composition, and the Norwegian Ø, in which the diagonal stroke simply makes it appear that you were writing an O but regretted it and so crossed it out.
    However, i expect I’d feel differently if I’d been using these styles all my life, and I certainly approve of John’s diligence with the medicine bottles.

  65. I think it’s conceptually ugly to cross a letter out in order to identify it.
    It runes the letter for you?

  66. Badeumhang says:

    forbade a friend of mine to use “Nazi sevens”
    Funny, I always associated the cross-barred 7 with French….

  67. The crossbar on the 7 makes more sense in places where the 1 is written with a small hook at the top. I tried it for a while and dropped it because my 7’s are legible enough without it. I still write z with a horizontal line through it though–a habit I picked up in some math class. It distinguishes z from 2 in an equation.

  68. In maths, my problem is making a distinction between ‘x’ the unknown quantity and ‘x’ the multiplication symbol.
    I could cross one out, but then I’d have to distinguish between ‘crossed-out x’ the multiplication symbol or unknown quantity and ‘crossed-out x’ the mistake, and, yes, i get a lot of those in my equations.

  69. Like Nij, I can read my own 7’s all right, but I often cross my z’s especially in a mathematical context because of 2’s.
    If there are going to be people around who don’t all make their ones the same way, maybe crossed sevens are a good thing.
    Thankfully I don’t write x for muliplication very often. Of course, in some contexts we don;t need to (4ac means 4 times a times c).

  70. Yeah, but 42 doesn’t mean four times two.

  71. Perhaps the meaning of life is four times two?

  72. Crown, you seem to be using “life” for “life, the universe, and everything”. The part for the whole, ugye?
    Here’s a fairly idle math-and-language comment:
    The fact that x times y is the same as y times x is something we all get used to pretty early on, and can be made clear to the beginner by comparing, say, 4 sets of 2 things with 2 sets of 4 things, perhaps using a 4 by 2 rectangular array. But before you get to that fact, do you think of “4 times 2” as 4 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 4?
    Related, and more serious in its potential for confusion: x divided by y is not the same as y divided by x, yet we can say
    how many times does 2 go into 8?
    and we can also say
    let’s take 8 things and divide them into 2 bunches
    I can testify that the presence of these two opposing usages of into in connection with mathematical division has actually been the cause of some brief confusion in my own life (and therefore in the universe and everything); it led me to misunderstood a child who said something of the form divide [some number] into [some number]. Just one of those park-in-the-driveway/drive-in-the-parkway things, perfectly understandable from one point of view but looks odd when you step away from it.

  73. David Marjanović says:

    That’s rather a sweeping comment, wouldn’t you say?

    Then everyone did it in Austria… but all German-language examples of real handwriting or imitations in company logos or the like from that time have the thing on the u.

    Badeumhang

    Umhang means “cloak” as in “cloak-and-dagger movie”. There not being a separate word for “gown”, try Bademantel.
    ————
    Official Austrian School Handwriting, from 1950s to mid-1990s: 1 is 1 rather than | (distinguishing it from the Roman I), every 7 is crossed and wavy at the top, capital Z is crossed but lowercase isn’t (has probably driven some Poles mad already), both Z and z are wavy at the top and the bottom, and t is never crossed. Instead, it has a loop near the lower end, so, if you overshoot that lower end and open the pointed tip into a loop, t and f can look very similar.
    I’m autistic enough to still use that style of handwriting, even in my signature which still looks like ordinary text. That said, I haven’t written much by hand since I (culture shock warning) finished school and entered university 9 years ago.

  74. Bademantel says:

    Thank you, David. I didn’t know the German for “bathrobe” and, although fully cognisant of their often horrendous shortcomings, decided to look it up in an Internet dictionary. I figured that no one would be stupid enough to make up an imaginary word just to have a dictionary equivalent for “Bathrobe”, so I plumped for Badeumhang because it looked like an interesting monicker. So in future, Bademantel it is (whenever I feel inclined to use German).

  75. my problem is making a distinction between ‘x’ the unknown quantity and ‘x’ the multiplication symbol
    Piece of cake. First, use the longhand x for your unknown. Sort of an exaggerated tilde that starts on the line, waves up then down, and ends in the air. Cross it as usual. That gets rid of your X for the unknown. Now get rid of your X for multiplication. You can use * but I like parentheses. For empty’s example of 4ac, instead of 4XaXc you can write 4*a*c or 4(a)(c), but of course if you’re going to start crossing stuff out in order to manipulate the equation you want it like he has written it without any markings: 4ac.
    “how many times does 2 go into 8”
    “divide them into 2 bunches”

    You can’t just look at the “into”. It’s “go into” and “divide into”.


  76. You can’t just look at the “into”. It’s “go into” and “divide into”.

    Let me try again.
    “When I divide 8 by 2, I get 4.” That’s standard usage.
    “When I divide 2 into 8, I get 4.” I believe that that is also standard usage. It is related to “2 goes into 8 4 times”, but it has no “go” in it.
    Yet a child once said something to me like “divide 8 into 2”, meaning what I usually call either “divide 8 by 2” or “divide 2 into 8” — understandably, given that we speak of dividing something into 2 parts.

  77. Trond Engen says:

    AJP: A. O. Vinje
    That led me to some interesting wandering around the nynorsk Wikipedia pages.

    He loved goats, too. Surely, his Blåmann is the national anthem of Norwegian goat herders.
    (I cried to that song for years, until I finally got my mother to stop singing it.)

  78. Trond, you ought to look at our Norwegian (angora) goats. Just click on my name /URL, below.

  79. Just click on my name /URL, below.
    Warning! If you do that, you’ll find yourself unable to leave and spend way too much time staring at pictures of goats!
    …Too late. Poor fellow, he’s hooked now.

  80. Goatrobe says:

    Staring at goats sounds quite perverted to me. Goats are such lascivious, promiscuous creatures.

  81. For multiplication, instead of × use a vertically centered dot, as in 4 · 2 = 8. That’s the convention throughout, at least, the four universities I went to.
    TL

  82. Not our goats, Dressing Gown.
    It’s hard to outstare goats, I’ve found. They can easily make you feel silly.

  83. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve been there now.

  84. The whole story on the various ways of distinguishing O and 0 on computers is found in this Jargon File article. Note that by “Scandinavian” Eric means Danish, Norwegian, and Faroese, but not Swedish, Finnish, or Icelandic.

  85. Isn’t Finnish more related to Russian (in the language sense, not the political sense)? It’s not on this tree.

  86. Bademantel says:

    Nijma, oh Nijma. Finnish isn’t even Indo-European (sigh)…

  87. Well, O Robed Crusader, in that case it isn’t Scandinavian either.

  88. Robed Crusader says:

    Actually, I think it is often regarded as Scandinavian.
    From Wordnet Princeton:
    # the peninsula in northern Europe occupied by Norway and Sweden
    # a group of culturally related countries in northern Europe; Finland and Iceland are sometimes considered Scandinavian.
    Besides which, it used to belong to the Swedish crown (am I raising hackles here?).

  89. And after that to the Russian crown. Hackles all over the place!

  90. gwenllian says:

    folkifying it seems like an excellent idea to me.
    But this is not without risks. As an example, Harry Potter is pretty de-Briticized and Frenchified in French. So, names that carry meaning are translated (Slytherin to Serpentard and so on).

    I leafed through a Slovenian Harry Potter translation a few months ago, and was fascinated by all the puzzling name change choices. A strange mix of Slovenian, English and plain bizarre. The books are aimed at children and the silly, humourous character names reflect it, so I can understand them being translated, but I’m not sure the approach the Slovenian translator went with enhances Slovenian kids’ enjoyment of the books much.

    Heartthrob and narcissist Gilderoy Lockhart is Slatan Sharmer (from the name ‘Zlatan’ (golden) and ‘šarmer’ (charmer). Prof. Grubbly-Plank is Tcherwiva-Dyla, a (clunky) literal translation. Makes sense so far. Good-hearted, broad-accented buffoon Rubeus Hagrid is Ruralus Hagrid. Remus Lupin, Harry’s werewolf teacher, is Remus Wulf (was the original really not anvilicious enough?). Professor Binns, whose boring lectures take forever, becomes profesor Speedy, Quidditch instructor Madam Hooch is Madam Hoops, haughty Bellatrix Lestrange is Krasotillya L’Ohol, and Peter Pettigrew is Marius Mally. Why not, I guess.

    But then it gets strange. The villain Lord Voldemort is Lord Mrlakenstein. School founders Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Godric Gryffindor are apparently Salazar Spolzgad, Daniela Drznvraan, Perwola Pihpuff and Godric Gryfondom. Myrtle becomes Jane. Minerva McGonagall is Minerva McHudurra, Alastor Moody is Alastor Nerrga, Prof. Sprout is prof. Ochrowt, Ludo Bagman is Ludo Malhaar, Dolores Umbridge is Kalvara Temyna, Severus Snape is Robaus Raws.and Bulgarian Viktor Krum is Zmagoslaf Levy. Depending on the translation, Horace Slughorn is either Comodus Toastwamp or Hudlagod Limax, And last but not least, Nymphadora Tonks is… Fatale Tanga?!

    And then you have characters like Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Sybill Trelawney, Fleur Delacour, Amelia Bones or Sirius Black, who are… Hermiona Granger, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Sybilla Trelawney, Fleur Delacour, Amelia Bones and Sirius Black. Quite a letdown after Fatale Tanga.

  91. Good lord, that is a weird mix. Very odd not to keep Voldemort!

  92. Also, thanks for bringing this thread back to life; it was fun to revisit.

  93. gwenllian says:

    And how did they come up with Mrlakenstein? I think it’s the only translation that changes the name completely. The Romanian translation has Lord Cap-De-Mort and the Russian Лорд Волан-де-Морт.

    Also, the Irish translation apparently translates He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named as Mac-an-Té-Úd-Eile (“the son of that other one”). Anyone know the exact meaning of that expression?

  94. Gwenllian, Hat: I suspect that for at least some of the names the motivation for changing them involved (near-) homophony avoidance: that is to say, perhaps “Voldemort” (for instance), as a name, would be too similar to some other Slovenian word/name with wholly different connotations.

    If “Voldemort” was thus to be avoided, however, then the translator should have found a name lacking a transparent meaning in the target language: “Voldemort” has no meaning in English, and thus a translation such as “Cap-De-Mort” in Romanian strikes me as infelicitous: Romanian readers would assume that in the original the name was “Head-of-Death” or the like. If “Mrlakenstein” is meaningless to Slovenian speakers (? Can anyone confirm or deny this?) it may well be a better translation of “Voldemort” than what the Romanian translator came up with.

  95. Slovenian mrlič means ‘corpse,’ which I suspect is relevant to the first part of “Mrlakenstein.”

  96. David Marjanović says:

    The German translation didn’t change any names, AFAIK. But it changed all the colors. Nobody knows what was going through the translator’s head. The example I remember is that shocky pink became knallrot, “red like the background at a socialist party convention”. What would be wrong with knallrosa, schreiend rosa, grellrosa…?

    Mac-an-Té-Úd-Eile (“the son of that other one”)

    Oh, that is wonderful.

  97. gwenllian says:

    Slovenian mrlič means ‘corpse,’ which I suspect is relevant to the first part of “Mrlakenstein.”

    It’s definitely meant to evoke death. I didn’t know about the interesting (to a Serbo-Croatian speaker) word mrlič, and thought it was likely from umrl (died). I guess the better question is why this creation is what they decides go with for the frightening and mysterious Voldemort. Is going with a pseudo- German surname meant to sound threatening? It might be different for a Slovenian speaker, but to me it just sounds funny. If I only had the name to go on, I’d expect a completely different type of character. A cranky but lovable pensioner maybe.

    Also, I’ve just turned on the TV, and the first thing I see? A Pinocchio movie.

  98. Voldemort is plainly vol de mort ‘flight from death’ in English-y French. So the /t/ is silent, which makes it uncomfortably close to my name. Ah well.

  99. gwenllian says:

    The German translation didn’t change any names, AFAIK.

    Almost no human names were touched, according to this list. For some reason Rita Skeeter becomes Rita Kimmkorn. Prof. Grubbly-Plank is Prof. Raue-Pritsche. Yet Mad-Eye Moody, an even more obvious candidate for (nick)name translation, remains Mad-Eye Moody. There are some other minor changes, notable only for their randomness, like Narcissa “Cissy” Malfoy being Narzissa “Zissy” and (very) minor character Marge Dursley becomes a Magda. The only major characters whose names were changed in any way seem to be Hermione, who becomes Hermine Granger, and Sirius Black, who starts out as Sirius Schwartz but is back to Black by Azkaban.

    Some translators, like the Dutch and Norwegian ones, apparently went to the trouble of coming up with new names for every single character, even those only mentioned in passing. I wonder how much this reflects the countries’ established translation practices and how much the individual translators’ choice. Some, like the Welsh, Romanian and Catalan, used a mixed approach but chose some very random characters to rename – e.g. Harry’s cousin remains Dudley Dursley, but minor characters like Binns, Sally-Anne Perks, Penelope Clearwater and Colin Creevey apparently merit changes to Bowen, Siriol Pennant, Luminiţa Limpede and Pau Parra.

    Some of the Italian changes are real headscratchers, especially for something aimed at Italian-speaking children. Prof. Binns becomes Prof. Rüf, Prof. Sprout is Prof Sprite, the cowardly Prof. Quirrel is Prof. Raptor, bit character Penelope Clearwater is Penelope Light, Peeves the poltergeist is Pix, Mrs Norris the cat is Mrs Purr, and bully Vincent Crabbe is Vincent Tiger. Latvian Profesors Bijs coming, according to the list, from “bija – was like binns ~ binn ~ been” also surprised me.

    The Serbian translator seems to be alone in deciding not to even translate any of the names of pets and other animals, so they’re just Feng, Bakbik, Krukšenks, Flafi, Skobers (yikes), etc., with the sole exception apparently being a creature by the name of Pigwidgeon, which becomes Prasvidžeon (prase – pig). And then, after hundreds of unchanged names, towards the end of the series minor player Horace Slughorn becomes Horacije Pužorog. What could’ve possessed the translator to do that at that point?

  100. I always took “Voldemort” as intending to suggest “deathwish.” Of course it could also be “flight from death” or even “theft of death.”

  101. gwenllian says:

    I always thought of it as “flight of death”.

    Maybe it’s “theft” and the meaning of the name is related to the whole horcrux thing? If that was even planned from the beginning and not something Rowling came up with as she went along.

  102. Voldemort is plainly vol de mort ‘flight from death’ in English-y French. So the /t/ is silent

    Aren’t you thinking of French-y French there? I’ve never heard a English-y Francophone pronounce “Voldemort” with a silent final /t/. (Except, arguably, in the degenerate case where the speaker refuses to say the word at all. None of my informants share this taboo, but it has been reported in the literature, e.g. Rowling 1997–2007.)

    Actually I also have my doubts about how much meaning people see in the “Vol” part — I know it didn’t occur to me. I parsed the name as “{ominous-sounding but meaningless syllable} of death”.

  103. but it has been reported in the literature, e.g. Rowling 1997–2007
    We need a “Like” button here. 🙂

  104. David Marjanović says:

    Is going with a pseudo- German surname meant to sound threatening?

    -kenstein as in Frankenstein?

    Marge Dursley becomes a Magda

    Interesting in this day and age when everyone knows Untranslated Marge Simpson.

    Hermine

    I wail for my memory.

  105. Dealing with the name “Voldemort” is tricky, since it forms part of an anagram (involving another suggestive-sounding nonsense word) in the second book.

  106. gwenllian says:

    -kenstein as in Frankenstein?

    Wow, can’t believe this went totally over my head. I guess it would’ve taken that first n being in the name for me to get it. Things make a whole lot more sense now, that’s for sure!

    But why choose Frankenstein, of all things. Wrong vibe for a Dark Lord, imo. Bad choice to mess with Voldemort’s name at all, really. I can understand changing some of the other names, but there’s no point at all with this one, it’s an easily pronounceable name, which has no meaning in the original language anyway. Plus, it really is a pretty neat name for a creepy villain. Keeping Amelia Bones but getting rid of Voldemort? Come on!

    Dealing with the name “Voldemort” is tricky, since it forms part of an anagram (involving another suggestive-sounding nonsense word) in the second book.

    In the Slovenian translation it’s, not very excitingly, Mark Neelstin. There are some nice ones from other translations on the list. The wizarding world is full of unusual names, so lots of freedom to come up with anything that makes the anagram work. Still, somehow I quite like the ordinary sounding Romeo G. Detlev Jr. Some translators, like the Croatian, Polish and Portuguese, didn’t feel like bothering and settled for keeping the original and adding a footnote. I like the creepiness of the Serbian translation’s To smo mi Lord Voldemor.

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