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Alethea & Athena
Onomatopoeia 
13th-Mar-2018 09:21 pm
darkside
For work-related reasons, we have been reading manga in English, and I was noticing something. Other translators seem to be afraid to use preexisting onomatopoeia, despite the fact that the definition of onomatopoeia is basically "sound effect." Of course, by "other translators," I'm really only speaking for the one series, but I'm only noticing it because we recently had an editor who referred to a time we used "creak" as a sound effect and said, "I hate this as a sound effect." (Athena says she's noticed it about manga in general; we have read other series in English in the past.) Creak literally is a sound effect! For crying out loud! Arrrgh!

So in this series I'm seeing things like "nok nok" instead of "knock knock," and "krakle krakle" instead of "crackle crackle." The latter was more annoying, because it would actually be pronounced "KRAY-kll," not "crackle." And you know, if you just prefer it that way, it's okay; just make sure the pronunciation is going to work. Make that a double K in the middle, or take off the E.

I really just want translators to know that, while we don't have them to nearly the extent they do in Japanese, the English language does have words that are legitimately sound effects. Creak, knock, crackle, sizzle, whoosh, thump, bump, buzz, croak, etc. etc. etc. That's what onomatopoeia is, and you should totally remember that word because it's ridiculously hard to spell, so it makes you sound super-duper smart. It's okay to use sound effects that will pass the spellchecker. I mean, if you forbade all of them, you would have to nix things like "flash" and "blush" and "leap" that we all keep using for things that the Japanese language has a sound for and we don't.

Okay, minor rant over. The short version is this: Onomatopoeia. Look it up.

Today I'm thankful for having time for some workreation, Reese's Pieces eggs, making it to and from the grocery store before it rained, managing to spell onomatopoeia correctly the first time I typed it in this post, and the lovely rainy weather we had today.
Comments 
19th-Mar-2018 06:54 pm (UTC)
I don't disagree with your point about existing onomatopoeias, but I think sometimes publisher style guides are the force behind weird spellings, not just the individual translator or adapter. I'm pretty sure Viz is super into, like krakl instead of crackle (...yeah, the silent e on the one you mention does seem better left off) and other not-real-word spellings. Sometimes it does look silly. And so maybe some translators just get used to translating under those guidelines and do so even when they have the freedom from other publishers to choose other spellings. It can also sometimes be easier to letter a shorter sfx like krakl—especially if it's just two small, simply-written kana in Japanese, it can look awkward to have a 7-letter lineup in English, either next to the JP or replacing it (depending on the publisher).

On a side-note, I was reading picture books with a 1st grader I know the other day and I don't remember what we were reading, maybe a dog who said "woof, woof!" or something like that, and as she read the page out loud she said under her breath, "Onomatopoeia!" and it was soooo cute :D
20th-Mar-2018 12:38 am (UTC)
That's a good point about style guides. All I know is that Kodansha wants us to make sure we don't translate the same Japanese sound to a different English one, or a different Japanese sound to the same English one. And the lettering point is an excellent one, too. I'm also not entirely opposed to changing even words like "creak," for example, but the suggested alternative sounded nothing like the Japanese sound or the sound it was representing as heard by my native English ears. That plus the "I hate this as a sound effect" when a sound effect is what it is had us miffed. But we already went over that.

Awww, it's nice when kids learn big words (as long as they aren't insufferable know-it-alls).
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