Johannes Punkt’s Flaskpost

You may be required to show proof of id.

Tag: neologisms

NORTH OF REALITY TRANSLATION PROJECT: THE DEATH-PAINTED PLANET

Good evening, good evening, good evening. Welcome to the North of Reality Translation Project, wherein I translate some of Uel Aramchek’s stories into Swedish but comment on it in English so that most of you can read and enjoy and understand despite not speaking Swedish. Today’s story is The Death-Painted Planet. You can find all of the posts in this project over at this link: /tag/the-north-of-reality-translation-project/

~

NORR OM VERKLIGHETEN: PLANETEN SOM PENSLATS MED DÖD
    av Uel Aramchek
        översättning: Johannes Punkt

Löpelden kan ses från rymden: en ständigt brinnande halvring som kopplar ihop planetens poler. Till öst om denna självlysande meridian glöder världen violett med liv; till väst finns dock inget annat att se än rök och öken, ett maskhärskat landskap. Flammornas flera jordmånader långa lopp ger fälten precis tillräckligt mycket tid att växa tillbaka. Satelliter i omloppsbana runt ekvatorn kan se hela livs- och dödsförloppet i ett enda varv, från jord till aska och åter till jord.

De första hovarna av vad som kommit att kallas Den eviga vildflykten kan höras bara ett par kilometer öster om eldfronten. Denna världs djur tillbringar sina liv på flykt, dundrande och fladdrande och slingrande sig ständigt österut. De betar kvickt och kort när de kan, och de som ännu inte har utvecklat förmågan att leva utan sömn rider på varandras ryggar. Långa snablar och klängen släpas bakom deras kroppar för att sörpla upp vatten och mossa och undervegetation. Det finns även rovdjur på en sådan plats, mäktiga varelser med mångtandade lemmar som låter dem släpa eller bära sina byten med sig medan de rusar framåt.

Ett expeditionsteam av astrozoologer gjorde en enastående upptäckt medan de observerade den skenande massförflyttningen ifrån deras gyrokopter: en liten stam nakna människor som sprang vid sidan av en flock segelrenar. Det visade sig att de var den överlevande besättningen från ett fraktskepp som krashlandat på planetens yta nästan tio år tidigare, och att de tvingats anpassa sig efter den ständigt förflyttande biosfären. De hade inget materiel kvar från sina stjärnsmugglardagar, för vad de än burit med sig en gång i tiden hade nu trampats eller bränts bort, inklusive deras nödsändare. De hade lyckats anpassa sig och överleva mot ofattbara odds genom att jaga i flock och bli vänner med några av de större bestarna för att sova på deras ryggar om natten.

Trots att överlevarnas beskrivningar av denna upplevelse var mardrömslika har många människor sedan dess självmant valt att springa med Den eviga vildflykten, och många fler tränar och tar supplement för att jaga detta mål. Somliga väljer det som en personlig fysisk utmaning, somliga gör det för att de inte har någonting kvar att förlora, andra söker upplysning genom att uppoffra alla personliga ägodelar. Den fysiska uthålligheten som krävs är enastående, men kanske inte lika mycket som den mentala. För de flesta av den räddade besättningen på det olycksdrabbade skeppet fortsätter flammorna jaga dem i drömmen, och att sitta still i mer än ett par timmar är att ge vika för vansinnet.

~

Notes

The word for wildfire in Swedish is perfect for this story: löpeld, formed from the roots of words meaning “sprint” and “fire.” On that note, I was a little bit worried that the two rotations in the first paragraph would lose their connection to each other in translation, but I ran with the theme and connected them both to running laps (lopp), and that was preservation enough. (A good rule of thumb when translating is that if two parts seem connected by word choice, they should seem roughly equally connected in translation.)

At the end of the first paragraph, we get a simple smooth reference to a Biblical phrase in the English. (I looked it up and a Christian website did say that although “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” is not in the Bible per se, it is very Biblical indeed because it is a poetic reference to bits of the Bible, alright.) Uel writes “from ashes to fertility to ashes again.” Unfortunately, the equivalent Swedish phrase goes “från jord är du kommen, och jord skall du åter bli” – roughly “you are come from earth, and you shall turn to earth again.” Earth or soil connotes fertility very strongly already, so we’ll lose the whole ashes bit if we just transpose this literally. Fortunately, as I was writing this down expecting to have to go on a Bible hunt and everything, I realized that since it’s a cycle we can just phaseshift it, from ashes → earth → ashes to earth → ashes → earth. The focus of the phrase shifts a little this way, but it would have to anyway because when you start making references you have to triangulate much more. And it feels goddamn smooth so I’m keeping it.

The most immediate solution to translating the phrase “[the] wall of fire” would be “mur[en] av eld” but that sounds so much like translationese (translationese being the name for that special written dialect that includes famous sentences like “Do not disturb tiny grass is dreaming,” along with more subtle but wrongly rendered idioms and overly complicated constructions. Usually these are the result of translators too focused on getting the meaning right, not worrying about making things sound like one would say it in the target language). And, indeed, googling the phrase I mostly find translations of English books.

It’s not that you can’t say the phrase in Swedish – I did find examples of Swedes using it – and it’s not even like you’d suggest the wrong thing by saying it, it’s just that it irks me. I opted instead to make up the word “eldfront” (fire front), giving the wall of fire a meteorological flair without (hopefully) losing its immediacy. I’ve talked a little about how translation has to restrict itself and be conservative before, and surely this neologism – when there’s an equivalent phrase used by other native speakers available – is breaking that rule? Well, yes. But you have to know when to break your own rules. It’s still all about what the result sounds like.

There is an interesting challenge in the word “tumbledeer.” It seems to be a portmanteau of tumbleweed and deer, and as such how would one translate it? Although considering it solely as a Frankenstein of tumbleweed and deer would be missing an important part of it: when we encounter something new we use language to map it to something we already know. A favourite anecdote among some linguists to illustrate this is how the Gurr-goni (also known as Guragone) language genders aeroplanes as vegetables. See, trees are vegetables (kinda) and so things made of wood, such as canoes, are then also vegetables. And an aeroplane is a sky-canoe.

(If you think that’s absurd instead of cool, consider why you’re thinking of crewed rockets as ships.)

So to describe the tumbledeer in Swedish I should figure out how to analogize it. But to do that I should first figure out what they look like. Since I’ve decided to interpret this as though they’re tumbleweedlike, I’m going to assume that they move with the wind. It makes sense to imagine that a giant roaring fire is going to generate some strong and pretty constant gusts. So, imagine a mess of antlers and hooves, with heart and head and stomach placed wherever there’s room. Actually, if they move with the wind, perhaps a big moose-antlercrown could act like a sail, and the hooves could be used to push against the ground quick when they land, to regain speed.

Now I’ve decided sort of what the animal looks like, I will spit out some names for it and see which is best. Segelälg (sail-elk), segelren, skuttlöpare, studslöpare, hovsegel, studshjort, rullhjort, studsdjur, flygren, flygälg, stormälg, stormhjort … I quite like hovsegel (hoof-sails), although it is very silly. It should not be that, though, because hov also means “of or pertaining to the royal court,” annoyingly. But with another pronunciation. It would be a muddying connotation, not an enriching one, so it gets cut. I think of the ideas I listed above, the most evocative is segelren (“sail-raindeer;” it sounds better in Swedish) and so I will go with that.

~

Well, that was a lot of words. Thanks for reading, pals. If you like this story of Uel’s, there’s a similar mechanism on a fictional space planet in Iain M. Banks’ The Player of Games, which is really good space opera. If that’s your thing, I mean.

Are you doing cool things with words? If you speak a language that is not English, but also speak enough English to read the things I write here, are you translating things? Let’s talk about that, if you have the time.

Advertisements

Something Goes Wrong in Space, part III & NaNoWriMo Stuff

Okay so obviously I stopped being able to write the horror drabbles. This has mostly to do with me not being able to write on cue, I think. Anyways. EXCITING THINGS!

1. Drakekin is doing NaNoWriMo this year.

You might remember Drakekin as being the person with whom I developed the Something Goes Wrong in Space outline for. What is even more exciting than this thing being novelized is the fact that it will be up on the interwebs so that we can read it there! AND that there actually is a terrifying explanation behind That-Which-Speaks. Drakekin will post the things here, and it will be awesome. AND, I just renoticed, its working title is even more ominous than “Something Goes Wrong in Space”, y’all.

~

2. I am doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Read the rest of this entry »

Avoiding Translationese (English from Swedish)

Below is a paragraph in Swedish. This post is about translating it. Do tell me if I’m talking out of my arse.

Jag har en teori, en hypotes, en intuition. Det finns ett koncept som människorna kallar ‘Skuld’. Det är någonting som skapas mellan människor var gång en social interaktion utspelas. Många interaktioner är till endast för att skapa skuld för andra, så att Skuldskaparen kan hamna högre upp i den sociala ordningen. Är man ‘i Skuld’ till någon måste man göra denne tjänster tills Skulden är utbetalad, vilken kan ta livstider om inte mer. Kirurgen skapar Skuld när den räddar värdkroppens liv, men om den inte följer protokollet som lagts ut av Immunförsvaret så läggs all Skuld på kirurgen istället. Det vi gör nu är att vi får den att bryta protokollet vare sig den vill eller inte.

I just wrote the above in a story I’m working on. I’ve known that bit will be difficult to translate for a while, so I’m at least slightly prepared. (I write the story first in Swedish and then translate it to English because I’m difficult.)

Machine-assisted translation gives me:

I have a theory, a hypothesis, a hunch. Humans have a concept they call ‘Debt’. It is something that is created between people every time a social interaction takes place. Many interactions exist only to create Debt, so the Debt creator ends up higher in the social order. If a human is ‘in Debt’, they have to pay the Debt off, which could take lifetimes if not more. This surgeon will create Debt when they save the host body’s life, but if they do not follow the protocol laid out by the Immune System, any Debt created is on the surgeon instead. The thing we are doing right now is getting them to break the protocol, whether they want to or not.

I’ve adjusted it a lot, but I still love Google Translate and would like to have its babies or so. However, there is a problem.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Glossary for You

https://zombiesintelligently.com/glossary/

The glossary is live! You can find out the exciting definition of such words as ‘abatomization‘ or ‘hemolyse‘ now! Yay!

On Gender-Neutral Pronouns and Other Neologisms

I just figured something out. Gosh, I like the feeling of figuring things out. Goshdarn.

(This is a shortish post. I’ll be writing the first edition of the accompanying page sometime later this week or next week.)

Background: Most every time I present someone with a story where I use gender-neutral pronouns, they say that might distract from the story at hand. I mean, unless they are already as much for such pronouns as I am. The ones I prefer to use are ze and hir (English; pronounced ‘zee’ and something somewhere between her and here, like you started saying ‘his’ but switched the s to an r at the last second) and hen and henom (Swedish; you don’t need the pronunciation). I’ve seen it happen with friends’ stories too. This bothers me because they’re a pretty natural part of my vocabulary.

Solution: Just use more neologisms. Not quite James Joycing it up, but somewhere in that direction.

Just make it part of the story. I would like for language to be all cool with the use of gender-neutral (personal; third-person) pronouns that aren’t they, but obviously it is not. I could mope at individuals for not being as accepting or down with the feminism or [adjective] as I am, or I could just use more neologisms. I love making up words. This is so not a problem. If they think it still distracts (and hey, it still might) that is still their problem.

I will attempt to make a list of all the new words I will henceforth use in my writing. It will be good. It will have the word ‘pinnaturn’ in it, and it will be alphabetical. [EDIT: the glossary is now live: https://zombiesintelligently.com/glossary/]

Also: I totally won ScriptFrenzy with my super secret unbloggable script. Yay me!