ISSUE: A little history
- Greetings all,
You might be interested in an exchange I have been having offlist with
Alastair. It started when I passed him an article by a Slovak-English
translator describing the need to make the rather stiff, formal style that
she finds typical of texts for tourists more upbeat. (I have heard several
Slovaks say there can be a wide gulf in Slovak between formal and informal
styles in general. Am I generalizing, Irena?)
>I believe it is possible in some rare cases to takeAlastair responded:
>the overall style up or down a notch, if in your strategy
>for your particular text you have decided the genre is
>usually treated differently in English.
Very definitely, and not just in "rare cases". For example, Czech
archaeologists write/publish texts written in the first person, which is
utterly unacceptable to the British academic world - so the style *must* (by
British standards) be jacked up by making it a formal paper in the third
I would now add:
So I see that this is standard in your field. I think that it is rarer for
those dealing with legal matters or authoritative texts, but for newspaper
articles and promotional material it should be considered. I am not only
thinking of individual conventions but the entire register of a text.
Textbooks describe five such "styles" in English: very formal, formal,
neutral, informal and very informal. I will sometimes turn a formal
newspaper article in "spisovna cestina" into "neutral" style (sometimes
defined as "language which does not call attention to itself"). In
discussions I have had with Paul on this, I think we have agreed that in a
lot of business websites put out by Czech companies the language is so
dreadfully formal that it needs downstyling a couple of notches.
>For instance, in *popular* texts I tend to translateYes - royalty and saints are much easier - EVERYONE translates their names
>historical personal names ... [snip]
>Interesting. Do you turn Zikmund into Sigismund
>or Marie Tereza into Maria Theresa. How about Vaclav?
into their own language! (Look up Sigismund, Maria Theresa, Agnes of Bohemia
or John of Nepomuk in your encylopaedia, for instance... going the other
note that the Czechs refer to Kr�lovna Al�beta II).
And of course we all know that Good King Wenceslas wasn't - heavily backed
by and indebted to East Frankish Henry I the German and the Bavarian
Arnulf, he was a "Prince". Even here there is a translation problem, though,
as his title in the official Latin of the day was "Dux", which in English we
normally turn into Duke or Count (e.g. Count Bellisarius) - but here we must
bow to the majority. Incidentally, did you know that the Boleslav who
knocked off V�clav/Wenceslas went on to be called "the Pious...."?
The problems come with the nobility: should one use the original Czech, an
English equivalent or the German forms that the people themselves might have
used? Example: Franti�ek Arno�t, Hrab� z Vald�tejn = Francis Ernest, Count
Wallenstein = Franz Ernst, Graf von Waldstein. I would use the English
simply to make it eaiser for the reader - with the Czech perhaps in brackets
after the first mention - but a case could be made out for any of the three
conventions. To whit, English names make it easier for the reader to
concentrate on what is being said rather than being baffled by impenetrable
diacriticals; Czech names because these people were Czecj and "one shouldn't
translate proper names"; German because that was the language of the
nobility of the time, and would have been used by the subjects in describing
themselves. I favour the first approach, persoanlly, but as long as one is
consistent throughout the text I don't think it matters that much which is
To which I answer:
I am not convinced that consistency is always required here. The same
convention could apply as for place-names, i.e. that half a dozen standard
traditional translations exist like "Wenceslas Square" or "Charles Bridge"
but that is no reason to get carried away with "Peace Square" (carry on like
that and we'll have "The Groves" for Haje) Likewise I feel that even in
popularizations, there is a case for just using the well-established
translations like "Charles IV" but leaving Francis Ernest well alone. Zdenek
Lev, Lord of Rozmital is going to look silly as Sidonius Lion. I use no
special criterion - maybe just a gut feeling on what is recognizable and
what isn't. For some names there is no translation anyway, so I reckon the
poor reader is going to have to handle the diacriticals sooner or later
- It was written thus
>I am not convinced that consistency is always required here. The sameUnless there is a strong convention, I try to avoid translating place names:
>convention could apply as for place-names [snip]
when someone opens their map, they won't find Peace Square on it! Equally, I
would write "Capkova ul." rather than "Capek Street". What I might do,
though, *if* I feel that it will add something to the text, is use a formula
like "... on Nam. Miru ('Peace Square')..." the first time the place is
> Zdenek Lev, Lord of Rozmital is going to look silly as Sidonius Lion.Well, I didn't know that Zdenek=Sidonius! So Zdenka=Sidonia... but then what
about the Baronka Sidonie N�dhern� (of Borut�n)?
Anyway, I think that "Sidonius 'the Lion', Lord of Rozmital" has a certain
romantic ring to it, don't you...?
>For some names there is no translation anyway, so I reckon theGranted, but that doesn't mean that they want to cut through through forests
>poor reader is going to have to handle the diacriticals sooner or later
of the things. Cicero: "salus populi suprema lex esto" - 'let the welfare of
the people be the final law'...
- This topic is quite interesting. Similarly, just in the opposite direction,
I might add the issue of changing English feminine last names by Czech
translators by adding the ending "ova" to them. For example: Ryan to
What do you think about it?
Changing of Repy to Beeds, and Ryan to Ryanova, isn�t it also an acquisitory
approach? After the battle, to acquire new territories through sending
translators there and modyfying proper names into the language of winners?
Actually, I believe it is. After each major political change, many proper
names are changed to put "the victorious interpretation" into effect.
Or, another example. I was driving on the highway from the Hlavni nadrazi
(the Main Station) with an American friend of mine who had just arrived from
Poland, in direction toward the Narodni Museum ( National Museum) and when
we were waiting for green light on the big intersection right bellow the
Museum, he asked me about the museum: "What is that big building standing
opposite to the McDonalds�?" (Yes, there is McDonalds� opposite to the
Museum, across the intersection on the corner of the Vaclavske namesti, and
I thought for myself, smiling: Oh, the National Museum has got a new
topographical definition - from "a museum on the Vaclavske namesti" it has
become "a museum standing opposite to the McDonalds�").
Note: I am sure you understand I do not mean to offend or accuse anybody on
the list. The topic is really interesting, and I just try to add little
entertaiment into it.
- Yeah, and Cut-Throats for Hrdlorezy, Cudgels for Kyje (any estate agents reading this?) and [We] Cook [Our] Guests for Hostivar.
This is great. I have not seen anything like this for a long time. I will keep this.
But except that it is so funny, it is also very interesting. Is there any conclusion we can make based
on these examples?
- It was written thus:
>Changing of Repy to Beeds, and Ryan to Ryanova, isn�t it also anacquisitory
>approach? After the battle, to acquire new territories through sendingYes, of course the (economic/political/military) conqueror wishes to
>translators there and modyfying proper names into the language of winners?
>Actually, I believe it is. After each major political change, many proper
>names are changed to put "the victorious interpretation" into effect.
administer his new territory in his own language. For example, Norman French
was the language of the ruling classes in England for a couple of centuries
after the Conquest in 1066; English went around the globe with the British
Empire in the 19th century, and is spread by US-led economic forces today...
*BUT* in the longer term place names tend to be resistant to this process -
they have a tendency to retain their common/popular names, whatever the
'official' name applied to them. Examples: in Britain, Danish and Saxon
place-names were not eradicated by the Normans; in Germany, Karl-Marx-Stadt
reverted to being Chemnitz; and in this country Zlin ditched Gottwaldov
pretty fast, too.
Of course, entirely NEW communities or administrative divisions - which have
nothing to revert back to - may retain jingoistic names in the language of
the conqueror for much longer: hence we have Victoria, Georgia, and
Louisiana named to flatter monarchs, and of course New England! (Am I the
only person who finds it ironic that the latter's American Football team is
called the Patriots...?)
- Why do I never remember these things until it's too late...?
Ref. my last post on place-name resilience, this quote from R.L. Stevenson's
(long) poem "Ticonderoga" seems appropriate; the first speaker is a Scot,
the second a Native American...
"O, you of the outland tongue,
You of the painted face,
This is the place of my death;
Can you tell me the name of the place?"
"Since the Frenchmen have been here
They have called it Sault-Marie,
But that is a name for priests,
And not for you and me.
It went by another word"
Quoth he of the shaven head:
"It was called Ticonderoga
In the days of the great dead."
>Anyway, I think that "Sidonius 'the Lion', Lord of Rozmital" has a certainAnd don't forget that "Rozmital" (Rozmtal?) is actually Rosental =
>romantic ring to it, don't you...?
Rose Valley (sounds like a suburb of Los Angeles...).
- It is interesting, Alaistair, please, can you reword the following for me so
that I can understand it better?
It went by another word"
Quoth he of the shaven head:
"It was called Ticonderoga
In the days of the great dead.
- Hi Kostas!
Are you back in Prague, or still enjoying yourself on the beach?
OOTC [Obligatory On-Topic Content]:
Sorry, Stevenson can be tricky - 19th century English written by a
>"It went by another word"It was known by a different word/name
>Quoth he of the shaven head:
Said the man with the shaven (bald) head
>"It was called TiconderogaIt was called Ticonderoga
>In the days of the great dead".
when our famous ancestors were alive
(If anyone is feeling *really* keen, I have the
whole 250 lines of 'Ticonderoga' in Word97 format...)
- Hello everybody,
>> I have heard several Slovaks say there can be a wide gulf in Slovakbetween formal and informal styles in general. Am I generalizing, Irena?
I don't think there is a big difference between the gulf in Slovak and a gap
actually, the Czech gap may be even wider because, for instance, the Czech
language uses an "-ej" suffix for adjectives in very informal style
(dobry/dobrej), while Slovak lacks this feature (they have "dobry" only for
masculine gender), and, for this reason, it is easier to make Czech texts
look very informal (eg. commercials for mobile phones, etc.)
As for the archaeology issue, I have a photocopy of about a 60-page
dictionary of archaeological terms (it was a part of a textbook from the
Faculty of Archaeology); I don't know what the quality is like, but the
terms you have mentioned are there at least. Alastair, this is your field -
if you (or anybody else) want to see it, let me know.
Paul and Melvyn, thanks for your help; I understand that my message did not
get through ( I never read my own messages again).
- It was written thus:
>As for the archaeology issue, I have a photocopy of about a 60-page!!!!! YES PLEASE !!!!!
>dictionary of archaeological terms (it was a part of a textbook from the
>Faculty of Archaeology); I don't know what the quality is like, but the
>terms you have mentioned are there at least. Alastair, this is your field -
>if you (or anybody else) want to see it, let me know.
Very much and very urgently!
This document has almost obtained the status of "urban myth" among my
clients in this field (sorry about the pun...). Many of them speak very good
English themselves, and while everyone knows someone who has seen a copy,
nobody has seen it themselves.
It would be very interesting indeed to compare it with the terms that I have
spent the last five years gathering - and it might explain some of the
recurring mistakes I see in the English that I correct, too. I will be in
town on Wednesday next week - can we meet?
> Yes, of course the (economic/political/military) conqueror wishes toFrench
> administer his new territory in his own language. For example, Norman
> was the language of the ruling classes in England for a couple ofcenturies
> after the Conquest in 1066; English went around the globe with the Britishtoday...
> Empire in the 19th century, and is spread by US-led economic forces
I see, you mean that you are using these Americans to do all this hard work
for you, right? They write In Majorca Daily Bulletin (I bought during the
vacation, it is something like the Prague Post, just tailored for Majorca,
and it is quite strictly British):
"The founding principles of the US were British ideas of liberty and
democracy, which somehow slipped out of our hands and drifted across the
North Atlantic. They are Britain�s very own buried treasure, stored and
preserved an ocean away. Now, it is time to reclaim them for ourselves".
I think that I got that trick of English speaking people how to acquire new
territories. Its actually both very subtle and powerful at the same time. As
an example, in the Majorca Daily Bulletin (MDB) they write (very
emotionally) about a British politician named Ashcroft, about his intention
to push for a law to imprison homeless people and beggars, then, they (MDB)
continue declaring a protest against this on behalf of all Balearic Islands,
saying that there are about 100,000 people living in poverty on these
islands. To summarize: they create a "common territorial sense" through
common political issues.
(believing that all this stuff is VERY relevant to translation)