Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

ISSUE: A little history

Expand Messages
  • Melvyn Clarke
    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
    Message 1 of 16 , Nov 29, 1999
    • 0 Attachment
      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 said:

      >I believe it is possible in some rare cases to take
      >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.

      Alastair responded:

      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
      person.

      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.

      Alastair continued:

      >For instance, in *popular* texts I tend to translate
      >historical personal names ... [snip]

      >Interesting. Do you turn Zikmund into Sigismund
      >or Marie Tereza into Maria Theresa. How about Vaclav?


      Yes - royalty and saints are much easier - EVERYONE translates their names
      into their own language! (Look up Sigismund, Maria Theresa, Agnes of Bohemia
      or John of Nepomuk in your encylopaedia, for instance... going the other
      way,
      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
      used.

      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
      anyway.

      Melvyn
    • Michael Grant
      ... How about Beets for R
      Message 2 of 16 , Nov 29, 1999
      • 0 Attachment
        >carry on like that and we'll have "The Groves" for Haje

        How about "Beets" for R<epy? ;-D
        Michael
      • Alastair Millar
        It was written thus ... Unless there is a strong convention, I try to avoid translating place names: when someone opens their map, they won t find Peace Square
        Message 3 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
        • 0 Attachment
          It was written thus
          >I am not convinced that consistency is always required here. The same
          >convention could apply as for place-names [snip]

          Unless there is a strong convention, I try to avoid translating place names:
          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
          mentioned.

          > 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 the
          >poor reader is going to have to handle the diacriticals sooner or later
          >anyway.
          Granted, but that doesn't mean that they want to cut through through forests
          of the things. Cicero: "salus populi suprema lex esto" - 'let the welfare of
          the people be the final law'...

          Cheers!

          A.
        • Paul Sinclair
          Yeah, and Cut-Throats for Hrdlorezy, Cudgels for Kyje (any estate agents reading this?) and [We] Cook [Our] Guests for Hostivar. Paul
          Message 4 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
          • 0 Attachment
            Yeah, and Cut-Throats for Hrdlorezy, Cudgels for Kyje (any estate agents reading this?) and [We] Cook [Our] Guests for Hostivar.
            Paul
          • Kostas Zgafas
            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
            Message 5 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
            • 0 Attachment
              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
              Ryanova, etc.
              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.

              KZ
            • Kostas Zgafas
              Yeah, and Cut-Throats for Hrdlorezy, Cudgels for Kyje (any estate agents reading this?) and [We] Cook [Our] Guests for Hostivar. Paul This is great. I have not
              Message 6 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
              • 0 Attachment
                Yeah, and Cut-Throats for Hrdlorezy, Cudgels for Kyje (any estate agents reading this?) and [We] Cook [Our] Guests for Hostivar.
                Paul

                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?

                Kostas
              • Paul Sinclair
                Ochi ré Kosta, there is no lesson to be learned. Paul
                Message 7 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
                • 0 Attachment
                  Ochi r� Kosta,
                  there is no lesson to be learned.
                  Paul
                • Alastair Millar
                  ... acquisitory ... Yes, of course the (economic/political/military) conqueror wishes to administer his new territory in his own language. For example, Norman
                  Message 8 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
                  • 0 Attachment
                    It was written thus:

                    >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.


                    Yes, of course the (economic/political/military) conqueror wishes to
                    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...?)

                    Thoughts anyone?

                    Alastair
                  • Alastair Millar
                    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
                    Message 9 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
                    • 0 Attachment
                      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...

                      [quote]
                      "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."
                      [unquote]

                      Yours aye

                      Alastair
                    • Michael Grant
                      ... And don t forget that Rozmital (Rozmtal?) is actually Rosental = Rose Valley (sounds like a suburb of Los Angeles...). Michael
                      Message 10 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
                      • 0 Attachment
                        >Anyway, I think that "Sidonius 'the Lion', Lord of Rozmital" has a certain
                        >romantic ring to it, don't you...?

                        And don't forget that "Rozmital" (Rozmtal?) is actually Rosental =
                        Rose Valley (sounds like a suburb of Los Angeles...).

                        Michael
                      • Michael Grant
                        ... I used to live there. It s a shame you never came to visit. ;-) Michael
                        Message 11 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
                        • 0 Attachment
                          >[We] Cook [Our] Guests for Hostivar

                          I used to live there. It's a shame you never came to visit. ;-)
                          Michael
                        • Kostas Zgafas
                          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
                          Message 12 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
                          • 0 Attachment
                            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.

                            Thank you,

                            Kostas
                          • Alastair Millar
                            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
                            Message 13 of 16 , Nov 30, 1999
                            • 0 Attachment
                              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
                              well-travelled Scotsman!

                              Try:
                              >"It went by another word"
                              >Quoth he of the shaven head:
                              It was known by a different word/name
                              Said the man with the shaven (bald) head

                              >"It was called Ticonderoga
                              >In the days of the great dead".
                              It was called Ticonderoga
                              when our famous ancestors were alive


                              (If anyone is feeling *really* keen, I have the
                              whole 250 lines of 'Ticonderoga' in Word97 format...)

                              Cheers!

                              Alastair
                            • Irena Steinerová
                              Hello everybody, ... between formal and informal styles in general. Am I generalizing, Irena? I don t think there is a big difference between the gulf in
                              Message 14 of 16 , Dec 1, 1999
                              • 0 Attachment
                                Hello everybody,

                                >> 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 don't think there is a big difference between the gulf in Slovak and a gap
                                in Czech;
                                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).
                                Irena
                              • Alastair Millar
                                ... !!!!! YES PLEASE !!!!! Very much and very urgently! This document has almost obtained the status of urban myth among my clients in this field (sorry
                                Message 15 of 16 , Dec 1, 1999
                                • 0 Attachment
                                  It was written thus:

                                  >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.

                                  !!!!! YES PLEASE !!!!!
                                  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?

                                  Cheers

                                  Alastair
                                • Kostas Zgafas
                                  ... French ... centuries ... today... I see, you mean that you are using these Americans to do all this hard work for you, right? They write In Majorca Daily
                                  Message 16 of 16 , Dec 1, 1999
                                  • 0 Attachment
                                    > Yes, of course the (economic/political/military) conqueror wishes to
                                    > 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...

                                    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.

                                    Kostas
                                    (believing that all this stuff is VERY relevant to translation)
                                  Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.